Four likeliest landing spots for Cole Hamels
Red Sox, Cardinals, Padres, Cubs could be next for ace
After Cole Hamels' recent comments about his desire to be traded, it's becoming increasingly clear that the Phillies need to move the lefty, and general manager Ruben Amaro can be sure that each one of his spring starts will be closely evaluated.
Finding a team willing to match the Phillies' heavy demands still remains the biggest obstacle to trading Hamels, and below is my updated list of teams that have the prospects and desire to add the 31-year-old ace to their rotation, listed in order of likelihood.
The Red Sox struck out in their pursuit of a top-of-the-rotation starter this offseason after being outbid for both Jon Lester and Max Scherzer. In spite of their actions, Boston execs insist they do not need an ace with their current collection of starters.
The reality of the situation is both Clay Buchholz and Rick Porcello look much better slotted behind an established ace, and the rest of Boston's rotation appears a little thin in this deep division. The Phils reportedly would not consider a deal with the Red Sox unless MLB.com's No. 18 prospect, catcher Blake Swihart, is included, and the thought of Hamels in Boston is too enticing for the Red Sox not to eventually pull the trigger, making this the most likely destination for Hamels.
As we start Spring Training, the Cards remain one of the elite franchises in baseball, and they always seem to strike the right balance between trading or signing key players and using their Minor League system to supplement their Major League team. GM John Mozeliak made a sincere effort to sign Lester to add a top left-hander to anchor the staff with Adam Wainwright, which suggests he still desires another elite arm.
Hamels fits perfectly in St. Louis to help maintain that high level of competitiveness, and with question marks surrounding Michael Wacha (shoulder) and Wainwright (elbow), adding Hamels would give them an added level of stability, as long as the Cardinals are willing to include right-hander Carlos Martinez in any package.
San Diego's need to acquire Hamels diminished once GM A.J. Preller signed James Shields. That said, it is no secret that the Padres have continued to monitor the trade market for the San Diego native, and the fact that they have a lot of depth in their farm system makes them a contender in the Hamels sweepstakes.
The problem is that Padres' system lacks players with superstar potential, and the fact that this deal has not been consummated yet makes me wonder if the Phillies desire higher upside talent with more years of control than what the Padres can bring to the table.
The industry is split on the Cubs' level of interest based on the acquisition cost. Most believe that the Cubs would part with any of their prospects, except for third baseman Kris Bryant or shortstop Addison Russell, two of MLB.com's top five prospects. The problem for Phils GM Amaro is that he must have one of those in return for trading the lefty to Chicago.
As the Cubs are currently constructed, they need a Hamels-type pitcher if they truly expect to compete for the National League Central title. They could take a gamble and wait until the Trade Deadline approaches, when it's less likely they would need to part with Bryant or Russell to acquire a high-end starter.