Dave Dombrowski has a vision for the Phillies’ rotation.
In the short term, he sees right-handers Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and newly acquired Kyle Gibson anchoring the top three spots. In two to three weeks, Dombrowski sees right-hander Zach Eflin returning from the injured list to join them. The No. 5 starter? It sounds like Vince Velasquez has the edge over left-hander Matt Moore and others, but nobody in that group has pitched well recently.
Hey, what about free agent Cole Hamels? Friday’s Trade Deadline was the final opportunity for teams to acquire players from other organizations. So, if Philadelphia thinks it needs another starter for the stretch run, Hamels is its best bet.
“It’s a topic that we still need to revisit, actually,” Dombrowski said Friday evening. “Because again, we just did all these types of [trades]. We like Cole. There’s a lot of things we like about him. But now we need to sit down actually after we’re done here. We’re going to try to revisit the conversation ourselves and see where it takes us.”
The Phillies and 19 other teams watched Hamels pitch in Texas on July 16. Sources said Hamels threw the ball well, and folks there thought he could help a team given time to build arm strength. Hamels, 37, pitched only 3 1/3 innings with the Braves last season because of arm and shoulder problems. He has spent the past several months working himself back into shape.
Hamels is probably three to four weeks away from pitching in a big league game. It means he might not help a team until the final month of the season, but those five or six starts could make a difference.
Phillies fans remember Marty Bystrom going 5-0 with a 1.50 ERA in six September starts to push Philadelphia into the 1980 postseason.
Hamels’ asking price is unclear, but the Phillies should have some financial flexibility. They remained under the Competitive Balance Tax following Friday’s trades.
“I did not have any mandate to stay under the CBT,” Dombrowski said. “It was a drive, but by no means was it a mandate to stay below it. Ownership was very open to that.”
So maybe Philadelphia decides to take a shot at Hamels, who won World Series and NLCS MVP honors in 2008. If he can be even marginally better than Velasquez, Moore and the others, why not?
The Phillies did something similar in 2009 when they signed free agent Pedro Martinez following an early-July workout. He made three starts in the Minor Leagues before his Aug. 12 debut, and he finished 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA in nine starts.
“You know [Hamels] knows how to compete,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said earlier this month. “That's what you know he knows how to do. He knows how to pitch. He knows how to handle the Philadelphia market. I hope it would be a huge addition. We would want him to come in and go undefeated. I know he was a fierce competitor and that never leaves people.”
Phillies players expressed support for Hamels, too.
“Cole is one of the best ever to do it in a Phillies uniform, of course,” Bryce Harper said. “I have a lot of respect for him and the way he went about it in his whole career. Any team that gets him is definitely going to be really good. Everybody has seen him in the postseason and what he’s been able to do in his whole career.”
“Yeah, I mean, that’d be great,” Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto said. “He’s a Philly legend, so if they see something they like in the showcase, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be an option.”