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Rebuilding Phillies willing to trade Hamels, others

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies have been hitting the campaign trail hard in recent weeks.

They are letting everybody know they hope to trade their veterans for young talent and plan to take a step back before they contend again, which might not happen until 2017 at the earliest.

Youth, youth, youth.

Retool, rebuild, revamp.

The Phils have communicated their intentions to more than just opposing teams and media. They have told their veteran players, too.

"He was neutral when I talked to him," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told reporters Wednesday at the General Managers Meetings in Phoenix, when asked if Cole Hamels wants to stay in Philadelphia. "Happy to go. I think he wants to win, but he signed his contract and he plans on honoring the contract obviously, and that's great."

Hamels and Ryan Howard have partial no-trade clauses. Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley have complete no-trade clauses. The Phils have communicated with each of those players.

"We've had discussions with him," Amaro said of Howard. "He's aware of what the goals are. It was pretty good. It was pretty straightforward. We talked to him about what our direction is going to be and that's really all I want to say about that."

Most of the attention is focused on Hamels, who is at the top of his game. He is owed $96 million over the next four seasons and is an attractive alternative to teams uncomfortable about offering mega contracts to free-agent pitchers Jon Lester and Max Scherzer. But to land Hamels, teams will need to give up at least one or two blue-chip prospects.

"We've been doing this since probably May, working on those possible scenarios and lining up different clubs that would be good matches for us," Amaro said. "But that can change, because there are two-team deals, three-team deals, four-team deals, expanded deals. And I think that's part of this dialogue we have, this dance, whatever you want to call it at this time.

"It's kind of no secret that the free-agent market will kind of dictate where this thing goes, I think. Particularly in our situation, because it's not a deep free-agent market, but at some point the dominoes will start to fall, and then we'll see where it takes us."

But teams also like to hold onto their prospects, which makes trading Hamels difficult. The Phillies can't trade an ace for nothing. They did that once already when they traded Cliff Lee to the Mariners.

"Those prospects are highly coveted," Amaro said. "It seems like teams are more apt to just spend money, because it's just money. It's not entities that they're giving up as far as players are concerned, or talent. That's kind of the trend we're in. At the same time, there's risk with that, you're doling out a lot of money. It's a difficult balance. But the reality of it is, there isn't that many elite pitchers out there. So we'll see what happens."

At the moment, the Phillies have Hamels, Lee, David Buchanan and Jerome Williams penciled into next season's rotation. Lee missed much of the season with an injured left elbow, but he is scheduled to begin a throwing program this month. The Phils are optimistic Lee will be ready to pitch in Spring Training.

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez will enter camp as a starter, but the Phillies need more options than that. Nobody knows if his arm will hold up.

"We'd like to get two or three more starters if we could to create depth," Amaro said. "Right now we're going into it with Cole and possibly Buchanan. But Buchanan has options and he's not a slam dunk to make our club. Williams is a guy we signed for depth and he's not a slam dunk in our rotation. And neither is MAG. Right now we're in the process of trying to continue to create as much depth as we can."

The rotation would become remarkably thinner if the Phils trade Hamels. If they do not trade him, they at least have an ace every fifth day.

"He's still a really valuable player for us," Amaro said. "He can still be pitching for us when it's time for us to be contending more frequently in the next couple of years. He's really kind of in the sweet spot, and there is no reason to do anything with him because he's going to be one of the best pitchers in baseball we believe over the next five years of his contract.

"There's no pressure to move him and no necessity to do it, and frankly I'm not dying to move him. If there is an opportunity that is going to make our organization better off, then you have to consider it, because we're considering everything."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for Staff writer Paul Hagen contributed to this story.
Read More: Philadelphia Phillies, Cole Hamels