While the Mets staying above water and the White Sox leading the A.L. Central have been surprising stories of the 2012 season, there seems to be no bigger surprise than the Philadelphia Phillies. As I write this, they’re nine games under .500, sitting in last place (11 GB) of the first place Washington Nationals (!). While some predicted a fall by the Phillies this year, few could’ve seen them falling this far. While they refuse to call themselves sellers, they’ve traded both Jim Thome (to the O’s) and Chad Qualls (to the Yankees) in the past week . There have also been rumors that the team is shopping outfielder Shane Victorino and lefty starter (and personal favorite) Cole Hamels.
Of these pieces, there should be obvious interest in Hamels. In the abstract, he is perfect for the Yankees. He’s a lefty entering his prime–this is his age 28 season–and he strikes people out (no fewer than 20% K rate in any of his pro seasons) without walking them (career 6.2 BB%). He doesn’t quite keep the ball on the ground as much as we’d like–43.3% career ground ball rate–but his HR/FB–11.15%–isn’t all that worse than average, considering the infrequency of grounders. Of course that sounds great; the Yankees, and any team for that matter, should always want a pitcher that good. But is it practical and realistic for the Yankees to attempt to acquire Hamels?
It’s practical in that the Yankees do have a hole in the rotation, and will have one until Andy Pettitte returns. With him out, the Yankees could use an extra starter. Of course, that could lead to a log jam if Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova continue to pitch well, but that “too much pitching” thing always seems to work itself out, just like it did early this year. And, cliche as this may sound, flags fly forever. There’s no doubt that Hamels would do a lot in helping to secure a 28th World Series title. They should try to trade for Hamels, but can they? This is where it gets dicey.
While the Phillies may turn into sellers, they definitely have the ability to compete in the coming years without gutting the current team too much. Because of that, it’s presumable that they’d want upper-level prospects that are ML-ready or close to it. The Yankees don’t really have that. While Manny Banuelos could represent that, he’s been some combination of shaky or hurt all season and probably isn’t good enough on his own to headline a package for a pitcher of Hamels’ caliber. If the Yankees are to acquire Hamels, they could definitely include Banuelos, but they’d also have to include a lot of lower-level talent that may not be too enticing to the Phillies, depending on what other teams can offer. There’s also the financial issue, as I’d assume the Yankees would want an extension window with Hamels. Considering the $189M payroll looming for 2014, as referenced here, it might be a tough proposition to give Hamels the contract he wants. That, of course, is another issue altogether, which I’ll tackle next week during the All-Star Break.
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