The no-waiver trade deadline is a little less than nine days away — the actual deadline is 1 p.m. PT on July 31 — but if there is one thing that is certain it's that the Dodgers will trade for pitching. Both starters and relievers are likely on the club's wish list, but for now let's focus on the starters. Specifically, one starter - Cole Hamels of the Phillies.
The Phillies are bad, very bad. After losing 89 games in each of 2013 and 2014, Philadelphia is on pace for 106 losses in 2015. They are in desperate need of a rebuild, and Hamels is their best trade chip.
Hamels is 31, and superficially having a mediocre season, at 5-7 with a 3.91 ERA in 19 starts. But dig a little deeper, and it's easier to see that Hamels is still Hamels. His FIP is 3.37, his xFIP is 3.24 and his SIERA is 3.29.
You might remember this spread between traditional and advance metrics a few years back. A certain pitcher from 2010-2012 had a 3.83 ERA, but his underlying peripherals suggested a better pitcher, shown by his 3.16 FIP and 3.17 xFIP during that same span.
That was Zack Greinke in the three years before he signed with the Dodgers. He seems to have worked out just fine.
Hamels' strikeout rate this year is 24.4 percent, his highest rate since 2012 and right in line with his 23.3-percent career mark. His K-BB% rate is 17.1 percent, the same as his career rate.
Hamels is durable, having pitched at least 200 innings in the last five seasons, on pace for another 200-plus in 2015. Hamels from 2007-2014 averaged 209 innings and 195 strikeouts per season, with a 3.21 ERA, a 126 ERA+ during that span.
What sets Hamels apart from other potential starters on the market is that he's not a two-month rental, like pending free agents Johnny Cueto, David Price, Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir are.
Hamels is making $22.5 million this year, which equates to roughly $8 million from Aug. 1 through the rest of the season, plus $22.5 million each season from 2016-2018. There is also a club option worth $20 million in 2019, with a $6 million buyout.
In other words, getting Hamels means that, beyond 2015, you get a pitcher with three years and $73.5 million guaranteed, or four years and $87.5 million if he requires the option be exercised as part of the trade.
At the very least, Hamels would slot in quite nicely in the Greinke-sized hole should Greinke opt out of his three years and $71 million remaining at the end of 2015.
Any team acquiring Hamels would get a pitcher on a below-market contract, and a short-term deal at that. Rick Porcello parlayed one good year into $82.5 million over four years with the Red Sox, and Porcello is nowhere near Hamels' level.
That fact has made a stubborn man out of Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.
"You think anybody is going to sign a three, plus one of the ilk of Hamels?" Amaro told Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. "We have a contract that is locked in at three, plus one. So, yeah, I've been under no mandate to move any of these players."
That allows Amaro to ask for a lot when talking a Hamels trade. Per Jayson Stark of ESPN:
[The Dodgers have] never been able to sell the Phillies on a package for Hamels that didn't include someone like shortstop phenom Corey Seager or the Dodgers' best pitching prospect, Julio Urias. We've heard rumblings that, if one of those two isn't in the deal, the Phillies have asked for as many as six players back from the Dodgers' 1-A prospect tier. And that ain't happening, either.
Heyman also noted the Dodgers are unwilling to deal Seager or Urias, which probably means a package would likely be headlined by Jose De Leon or Grant Holmes, or perhaps both, possibly plus others.
But there is a sense of urgency on the Phillies' part too. Waiting until the offseason gives Hamels suitors the option to sign potential free agents — Greinke if he opts out, Price, Cueto, Samardzija, Kazmir or Jordan Zimmermann, at the top of the market — for only money.
"They should trade him by the end of the month. Really, they have to. The group of starting pitchers who will or could be available in free agency this offseason is so deep and talented ... that teams will be more reluctant to give up prospects and/or players to get Hamels this winter," wrote Matt Sielski in the Philadelphia Inquirer. "And if the Phillies don't deal Hamels before next season begins, then he's just another year older, 32 by then, and still pitching for a bad ball club."
Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports explored what a Hamels trade might look like:
What should the Phillies realistically expect for Hamels? A good prospect for sure (though one more at the level of Adames than, say, Red Sox OF Mookie Betts). And then perhaps a few major-league-ready types with upside, similar to what Smyly and Franklin represented for the Rays a year ago.
Hamels is scheduled to start next for the Phillies on Saturday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Commence hug watch.