Key Start for Hamels to Redeem Self, Trade Value


Cole Hamels has pitched in the heat of numerous divisional races as a member of the Phillies rotation over the past decade. He has pitched in 13 playoff games, including three of the World Series variety. And still, today’s start in the middle of a lost season will be one of the most important of his career.

Before his July 10th start against the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park, Hamels was one of the top starting pitchers on the trade block. His past resume includes a World Series MVP and a 112-89 record in 10 Major League seasons. His 3.02 ERA with 119 strikeouts in 113.1 innings pitched in the current season are also favorable.

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However, Hamels’ last two starts have left much to be desired. In 6.1 innings-pitched, the left-hander has given up 14 runs and 20 hits combined against not only the Giants, but also a Miami Marlins lineup that didn’t include Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon, and Mike Morse. The two-game stretch has been by far the worst of the 31-year-old’s career, and it has come at an awful time for himself and the Phillies organization.

Hamels will get a shot at redemption in front of an assembly of scouts, the Cubs’ front office, and a rowdy crowd in the “friendly confines” of venerable Wrigley Field. It may be just another game for most of the 2015 Phillies’ players, but for Hamels, this is akin to a game seven of the World Series.

Despite his struggles, teams are still heavily interested in the southpaw. It was reported entering this series that the Cubs and Phillies were in discussions for a deal involving Hamels. According to CBS Sports, the Cubs dangled young middle infielders Starlin Castro and Javier Baez. The Phillies were unimpressed by the offer, as they should be.

Castro, 25, has had a disappointing season, posting a slash line of .239/.272/.310 in 368 at-bats. He is a struggling hitter at a position that the Phillies don’t need now and, with J.P. Crawford waiting in the wings, hopefully won’t need for quite a while.

Baez, 22, is a promising young second baseman who has batted .314 with eight home runs and 29 RBIs in 140 at-bats for the Cubs’ Triple-A Iowa team. Baez, a Top 5 prospect in all of baseball as recently as a year ago, would be a decent piece in a potential Hamels deal, he’s only one player, and it will take more to land Hamels.

Recent call-up, 22-year-old Kyle Schwarber, is a player that the Phillies could desperately use. He is a catcher, a position that the Phillies are seriously lacking talent, and can also handle the bat, as seen by his .409 average and 1.151 OPS in 44 at-bats since his return to the Majors.

Hamels’ recent struggles certainly don’t help the Phillies’ front office as far as leverage in terms of an asking price for Hamels. His last two starts may have hurt any chance to land a top young talent such as Schwarber, which is why it’s crucial that Hamels bounces back on Saturday.

Today’s start will not only be a showcase for the Cubs. Other teams remain interested in the veteran southpaw as well. The Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, and Los Angeles Dodgers are still in play for Hamels as well.

His contract, which runs through 2018, is appealing to clubs such as the Cubs, Dodgers, Rangers, Red Sox and others, as we highlighted here at TBOH just yesterday, because he’s a pitcher that can help those teams contend well beyond this season, as opposed to one of the many rental arms also on the market.

All eyes will be on Hamels in this afternoon’s 4:05pm EDT game on the North Side. He has been solid in four career Wrigley Field starts, posting a 3.00 ERA in 24 innings-pitched. If he is able to mostly shut down the Cubs on their turf, scouts and GMs will be quick to forget the bad, and embrace the good.