Fact: Cole Hamels will be the opening day starting pitcher in 2015…but for the Phillies?
The hot stove has been getting even hotter as we inch closer to December and the MLB Winter Meetings. For the first time in what seems like over a decade, the Phillies entered the offseason with no intention of being a major player in the free agent market. While their division has already been altered through trades, free agent signings, and 13-year contracts, the Phillies have stood pat, making only minor moves affecting the makeup of the AAA roster. All of that could change in the coming weeks, or even days, should Ruben find a trade partner for starter Cole Hamels.
By now, any baseball fan who pays the least bit of attention to the rumblings around the league knows that Cole Hamels is the hottest name on the market this year. It’s of course the usual suspects as well who always seem to be the rumored suitors: the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, and just about any “contending” team in 2015. Now while I am of course not a real General Manager and really only pretend to play one through various simulation baseball leagues online, I do know one thing for sure. Ruben Amaro Jr. has one chance at this. One chance at a trade which will ultimately reshape the framework of the Philadelphia Phillies both in the present and potentially for 10 years to come. Typically the aggressor in the market who makes the big play early in free agency, Amaro has the unique opportunity to sit back and let the market come to him this year. Worst case scenario? Hamels is OUR opening day starter next season. But here’s why I think he’s going to Boston and the expected return package.
The asking price, dating back to this past trade deadline, has always been at least 3 top prospects for Hamels. While Red Sox fans have seemingly crashed Twitter these last few days proposing that the Phillies trade them Hamels for Yoenis Cespedes and prospects, Amaro isn’t that dumb. Although Amaro and the Phillies have been linked to one Cuban outfielder this offseason, the 29-year-old Cespedes isn’t it. A more likely offer? How about left-handed starter Henry Owens, catcher Blake Swihart, and shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
Let’s start with Bogaerts. Earlier today, the Red Sox agreed to terms on a 4-year contract with former Dodger shortstop Hanley Ramirez. This seemingly sets the table for a Bogaerts trade and maybe a prelude to one for Hamels. The former Red Sox top prospect, Bogaerts has the body size and makeup comparing him coincidentally to a young Hanley Ramirez. He draws similar power potential, but with less overall speed. As an everyday player this year for the Sox, Xander hit .240 with 12 home runs. The knock though has been his defensive play or lack thereof, but at just 21-years-old there is still great potential for Bogaerts to turn into a perennial all-star.
Henry Owens, the lanky left-handed starting pitcher, and catcher Blake Swihart, sit atop MLB.com’s Red Sox Top 20 prospects list. Owens, the starter of the 2014 All-Star futures game for the U.S. team, has risen quickly through the Sox system. While his command hasn’t been spectacular, his low to mid-90’s fastball and plus changeup has showed dominance over hitters at the minor league level. While many scouts project him as a future #2 or #3 starter, I think that if Owens can develop a plus curve, he has ace potential. It all depends of course on how well his game translates at the Major League level.
Swihart, the former 2011 first round pick, can hit both for average and power, but has impressed coaches the most with his ability to throw out base runners. Catching depth is definitely a need for the Phillies and one that Swihart could fill for years to come.
Why the Red Sox? It’s no secret that the Sox are looking to compete in 2015. After winning the World Series in 2013, the Sox couldn’t overcome injuries and prospect growing pains in 2014 and ultimately decided to deal some of their key contributors, punting on the season and planning for 2015. Already this week they’ve signed both Pablo Sandoval and the aforementioned Ramirez. General Manager Ben Cherington has made contending the priority in 2015 and Cole Hamels may just be that missing link that makes them an instant contender