By Terry Cushman – @cushmanMLB
Following the 2014 season, when the Red Sox failed to sign Jon Lester, who signed with the Cubs, I was convinced that a trade with the Phillies would be made for Cole Hamels. Being “convinced” was more along the lines of wishful thinking. Of course, it didn’t help when Hamels was telling various media outlets that he would surely waive his no trade clause to pitch in Boston.
Ben Cherington, Red Sox GM at the time, was unwilling to give up a package centered around Blake Swihart and Henry Owens to make the deal. Philadelphia’s GM, Ruben Amaro, had scouts attending all of Boston’s minor league teams for weeks on end. As I was accepting the fact no deal in fact would be reached, I predicted it would cost both GM’s their jobs for not coming to an agreement, and within months they were both fired from their respective front offices.
Hamels got dealt to the Rangers for a monster package. Aside from two division titles, they never made it past the ALDS, and are now at the beginning of a long rebuild. Blake Swihart has not quite blossomed into the player he was once hyped, mostly due to John Farrell’s incompetence to finish developing him. Henry Owens never had a formidable fast ball at the major league level, struggled with his overall command, and turned out to be an even bigger bust. He was DFA’ed by the Red Sox last season. Picked up and DFA’ed by the Dodgers. And now currently resides in the Arizona Diamondbacks system.
Hamels will surely get dealt away from the Rangers at some point before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. The Yankees are generally the first team mentioned by various pundits as a highly likely landing spot for him. Luis Severino has been an absolute stud. But Masahiro Tanaka, and Sonny Gray are certainly having their struggles. If they want to get a solid edge on the Red Sox, they will need to bolster their rotation to gain that. They certainly have the farm system to make the deal happen if they decide to pull the trigger.
Boston does not have an obvious need for Hamels due to it’s healthy depth of starting pitching. Sale, Price, Porcello, and Rodriguez all have firm spots in the rotation, and have collectively pitched very well despite their minor individual blips along the way. Wright, Pomeranz, Johnson, and Hector Velazquez have all occupied the fifth spot in the rotation at various points this season. Wright is coming off an extremely impressive seven inning shutout performance against the Detroit Tigers. Many will be clamoring for him to keep the fifth spot in the rotation now that Pomeranz is on the the DL with “tendinitis” aka a phantom injury.
What many observers are overlooking is how Wright proved to be an instant stabilizer to the Boston bullpen once he returned. At the time, Carson Smith had recently been lost for the season due to a shoulder injury, and many other relievers were not pitching very well at all. Especially Heath Hembree and Matt Barnes. Craig Kimbrel even blew a save right around that period of time to the Yankees of all teams. However, once Wright settled into the pen, he was able to go multiple innings in multiple games each week, which gave everyone a rest and took the pressure off. Before long, everyone was pitching to nearly their fullest potential, and not blowing any leads. If Dave Dombrowski were to reach a deal for Hamels with Texas, it would basically be as if Boston is gaining a reliever, because Wright could slot back into the pen to make room for Hamels in the rotation.
Hamels is essentially a rental player as far as any prospective team is concerned. His 2018 annual salary is $23M, with a team option for $20M in 2019, and a $6M buyout should the option not be picked up. He also has a $24M vesting option for 2019 if he pitches 400 combined innings in 2017/2018, with 200 of them being in 2018, and under the condition he is NOT on the DL at the end of the season with shoulder or elbow issues. However, that option is not likely at all to vest due to the fact he only pitched 148 innings in 2017. That would mean Hamels would need to pitch a total of 252 innings this season, which would never happen. All things considered, he is definitely only a rental.
From a performance stand point, the 34 year has quietly been performing very well. Aside from a meager 2017, Hamels is currently pitching to a 3.63 ERA, which is where he typically has hovered the last several years. Not to mention a 3.48 lifetime ERA in the playoffs, and a World Series MVP early in his career. His presence and experience in a Red Sox rotation could be similar to that of John Lackey’s in 2013.
Is Boston an obvious fit for Hamels? No. Would this deal be a long shot? Yes. One thing to keep in mind is that both the Red Sox and Rangers had lengthy dialogue in recent weeks over Blake Swihart. Texas does not have a long term catcher currently in their system who has any serious potential, and Boston obviously has no long term role for their young catcher either. So this could be a potential starting point in the frame work of a trade.
What else would the Red Sox have to include? Hopefully no more than a couple lower to mid-level prospects. Other than the Yankees, there won’t be many other teams in the race for him. Nor would he command a huge package based on his age, high salary, and the fact he’s a rental.
One last possible motive for Dombrowski to make the deal: It prevents the Yankees from getting him, and pitching him against us in a close division race and/or play off matchup.
It’ll be an interesting situation to observe from a far, however it ends up playing out.
ICYMI: EPISODE 51 OF THE AVIDBOSTON PODCAST!!!
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