The Cole Hamels Sweepstakes

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Prior to Thanksgiving and more importantly prior to the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings, I wrote that Cole Hamels would be an opening day starter, but for the Boston Red Sox, not the Phillies. Nearly a month later, it’s becoming more and more apparent that Hamels won’t be in red pinstripes to start the 2015 season, but with the Red Sox making a flurry of moves around the Winter Meetings signing right-hander Justin Masterson and trading for Rick Porcello from the Tigers and Wade Miley from the Diamondbacks, it’s becoming evident that Hamels may not be part of their 2015 plan.

Enter the San Diego Padres. The Padres have not won a postseason series since being swept by the Yankees in the 1998 World Series. They replaced long-time coach Bruce Bochy, with then Angels pitching coach Bud Black. Under Black, the Padres have had winning records in just two seasons, but have yet to make the postseason.

Nearly two months into the offseason, the Padres have been one of the most active teams for seemingly every big name available. In less than one months time, they’ve acquired a trio of outfielders via trade in Matt Kemp from the Dodgers, Justin Upton from the Braves, and Wil Myers from the Rays. They’ve also dealt for catcher Derek Norris of the Athletics and third baseman Will Middlebrooks from the Red Sox. They’ve addressed their offense, but still have a glaring need if they plan on contending with the rest of the NL West: a front-line starting pitcher. The Padres rotation is filled with right-handed starters in Cashner, Kennedy, and Ross, but lack that southpaw to sit atop their starting staff.

As reported by Ryan Lawrence, Phillies beat reporter from the Philadelphia Daily News, earlier today:

 

That’s right, a match made in heaven. Hamels, the San Diego native, has said that he would only accept a trade to a team that he feels has a chance to be competitive and win. While there’s obviously never a guarantee, the Padres have made strides to be competitive. Per Bob Nightengale of USA Today

 

Why don’t we just call it a done deal already?

So what kind of return might we expect from the Padres? Let’s start with the biggest piece in the deal, recently acquired outfielder Wil Myers. Myers, the former third round pick by the Kansas City Royals, battled through injuries in his sophomore season for the Rays just one year removed from winning the American League Rookie of the Year award. He missed all of June and July and the majority of August with a wrist injury after colliding with fellow Rays’ outfielder Desmond Jennings. Myers finished the 2014 campaign batting just .222 with 6 HR. The 24-year-old was most recently ranked by both Baseball America and MLB.com as the #4 prospect in all of baseball in 2013. Given his age, coming back from his 2014 struggles shouldn’t be much of a concern. Myers would be the potential mainstay in right field that the Phillies have been looking for.

A young outfielder is great, but the Phillies are obviously going to be looking for more. Let’s fill some other long-term needs from the Padres in catching prospect Austin Hedges and right-handed pitcher Casey Kelly.

Hedges, the 22-year-old former 2nd round pick and California native, is regarded by many scouts as an elite defender behind the plate and one of the best in the minor leagues. While his bat isn’t quite as good as his glove, he isn’t a slouch there either. In a little over 3 full seasons in the minor leagues, Hedges has 21 career home runs and carries a .251 batting average over that time period. Like most catchers, Hedges lacks speed, but if his bat develops, he could be the total package catcher that the Phillies though they were getting with Tommy Joseph. Hedges was recently ranked by MLB.com as the Padres #1 prospect and #22 prospect overall.

While I would welcome right-hander Matt Wisler, I’ll be realistic in my expectations and include Casey Kelly instead. Kelly has floated around the minor leagues for what seems like forever. The Sarasota native is the former first round pick of the Red Sox in the 2008 draft. He was dealt to the Padres as part of the package that landed the Red Sox Adrian Gonzalez back in 2010. The now 25-year-old made only four starts in 2014 after having Tommy John surgery in April of 2013. The benefit of Kelly to the Phillies is that he’s a groundball pitcher. While he’s not going to blow batters away with his low-90’s fastball, his ability to get batters out and flat out pitch gives him the potential to be a #3-4 starter at the Major League level.

You’re on the clock Ruben. Myers, Hedges, and Kelly for Hamels. Let’s get it done.

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