Market heating up for Hamels, Papelbon
PHILADELPHIA -- Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon could have their wishes granted before the end of the week.
Momentum continues to build for trades involving both the Phillies' ace and their closer ahead of Friday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline. Sources told MLB.com that the Dodgers and Rangers are the front-runners for Hamels, who also is receiving interest from the Yankees, Cubs and Giants. ESPN.com reported Monday night the D-backs and Astros have entered the mix, too. Papelbon is receiving the most interest from the Cubs, Blue Jays and Nationals, and those discussions seem to have picked up in the past 24 hours.
Both Hamels and Papelbon have limited no-trade protection. Hamels can block trades to 20 teams, but he cannot veto a trade to the Rangers, Dodgers, Yankees, Cubs, Nationals, Cardinals, Braves, Padres and Mets. He can block trades to the D-backs, Astros and Giants.
Papelbon can block trades to 17 teams, but the Cubs are not one of them. He can block trades to Toronto and Washington, but he has said repeatedly his no-trade clause will not be a problem. That said, Papelbon will only accept a trade to a team where he will be the closer. The Nationals currently have a closer in Drew Storen.
Papelbon also has a $13 million salary this season and a $13 million club option for 2016, which will automatically vest if he finishes just 14 more games this season. He might require a team to exercise that option to facilitate a trade, but if he closes for a contender, he should vest it without a problem.
Of course, Hamels is the big fish.
The Rangers privately expect to finish second in the Hamels sweepstakes, although the Phillies like their farm system more than Los Angeles' because Texas has something that Philadelphia's system sorely lacks: power hitters.
Rangers catching prospect Jorge Alfaro and outfield prospect Nomar Mazara -- who rank 34th and 42nd, respectively, among MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects -- could be part of a package for Hamels. Both have power.
Texas is becoming more comfortable with the prospect of taking on Hamels' remaining salary, which pays him $23.5 million annually through 2018, plus a $6 million buyout on a $20 million club option for '19.
The Dodgers would love to insert Hamels into a rotation that already includes Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, but they are expected to hold onto shortstop Corey Seager and left-hander Julio Urias, who are considered the fourth- and fifth-best prospects in baseball, respectively. Right-handed prospect Grant Holmes ranks 75th overall, and right-hander Jose De Leon ranks 89th, but as mentioned previously, the Phils prefer power bats. Dodgers outfield prospects Alex Verdugo and Scott Schebler have power potential.
But with at least two teams strongly interested in Hamels, the Phillies should be able to get something they like. The Royals just acquired right-hander Johnny Cueto from the Reds, and the Astros acquired Scott Kazmir from the A's on Thursday. That removes two starting pitchers from the market.
The Tigers might hold onto David Price, which also helps.
The Royals shipped left-handers Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed to the Reds for Cueto, who can become a free agent after the season. Finnegan was Kansas City's top pick in the 2014 Draft. Lamb was 9-1 with a 2.67 ERA at Triple-A Omaha before the trade. Reed was a second-round pick in 2013. He was 2-2 with a 3.45 ERA at Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Right-hander Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham went to Oakland for Kazmir, who also can become a free agent after the season. Mengden was Houston's No. 19 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com. Nottingham was No. 22.
The Reds and A's got those prospects for rentals. Hamels is not that, which theoretically means the Phillies should get something more valuable in return.
Sources said that no deal for Hamels is imminent, but with four days remaining before the Deadline, there is time to make it happen. The feeling around baseball is that Hamels finally will be dealt. Papelbon's chances to be traded seem to have improved in the past week, although it is far from certain.
Ben Revere, Jeff Francoeur and, perhaps surprisingly, Chase Utley have all received interest from teams. Revere is the most likely to be dealt from that group.
But the focus since Pat Gillick became Phillies president last August has been Hamels and Papelbon. The chances that the Phils will finally reach the finish line with trades involving both pitchers is better than ever.