Left-hander Cole Hamels had a 2.46 ERA for the Phillies in 2014 — the same mark as Jon Lester had for the Red Sox and A’s. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO — Need a top-of-the-rotation left-hander? Beyond Jon Lester, the obvious premium option on the market is Cole Hamels.
The Lester and Hamels markets unquestionably are interrelated. Any of the teams — Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants — that are currently engaged on Lester represent obvious potential trade destinations for Hamels if they lose out on him.
As such, according to a source familiar with the Phillies’ thinking, Philadelphia will wait for a full exploration of the Hamels trade market until after Lester signs. At that point, a prospect bidding war could proceed quickly for the 30-year-old, who will represent a $24 million a year average annual salary as calculated for luxury tax purposes over the remaining four years of his contract, with an option for 2018 at $20 million (with an $8 million buyout).
Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said that his team would require an enormous haul in order to deal Hamels, who was 9-9 with a career-best 2.46 ERA in 204 2/3 innings in 2014.
“I know with any of these players that [GM Ruben Amaro] wants a deal that’s going to be good for the Philadelphia Phillies going forward. Anyway that he can help the process and add players that can help us not only this next year but in the future, that’s the goal,” said Sandberg. “There’s no way that Ruben’s going to just give away a player. I mean, we’d have to be wowed to give up a guy like Cole Hamels, which would be a wow that would help us with the process and go in the direction that we want to go. … I’m just waiting to see through this process to see what comes about. Whether Ruben gets wowed or not is yet to be seen. If not, then he’s on our pitching staff, and we build some more starting pitching depth around him.”
Though Hamels has the right to veto trades to 20 teams (reportedly including the Red Sox), the left-hander has told the team that he’d be open to leaving the Phillies.
“Ruben’s talked to him, and he’s aware of the situation. He’s also been told that he’s a Philadelphia Philly. If that would change, then he would be told that that was changed. But for the most part, he was on board with the scenario and the situation that he’s in,” said Sandberg. “Sounded like he was game to be a Philadelphia Philly, and if something came about that was for the betterment of the organization, then he was in favor of that also.”
Hamels pitched like a pitcher at the height of his abilities in 2014. After opening the year on the DL and then struggling in his first three starts, he posted a 2.06 ERA over his final 27 outings of the year.
“He was light’s out. He had good stuff. He made adjustments, but he was on a string of games that was outstanding. Really found his fastball, throwing 94, 95 at times, which improved his other pitches,” said Sandberg. “He was dominant.”