If the St. Louis Cardinals hope to make a trade for Philadephia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels, as has been suggested by Fox Sports reports, they're going to have competition.
The Boston Red Sox are one club that has been connected to Hamels for most of the off-season and the Chicago Cubs are another.
To give an idea of the asking price for the Philadelphia lefty, the Boston Globe reports that the Philles asked the BoSox for young second baseman Mookie Betts and slugging catching prospect Blake Swihart.
Swihart hit .293 with 13 homers in 2014 which included stops in Class AA and Class AAA. He's 22 years old and was rated the 61st best prospect for 2014 by MLB.com. Betts, also 22, made his debut in the majors last season and hit .291 with 5 homers in 189 at bats. He hit .355 in Class AA in 2014 to earn a promotion to Class AAA where he hit .335 to earn his first trip to the big leagues.
The good news for the Cardinals, if they try to make a deal, is that it seems the rumors that the Phillies want three blue chip prospects for Hamels aren't necessarily true since they were apparently ready to settle for two.
The bad news is that, if Philadelphia wants a second baseman in return, there is no way the Redbirds are going to part with Kolten Wong as part of the deal. The Cardinals also don't have a top catching prospect to offer.
As loathe as I am to give up a young, promising pitcher in trade, I wonder if a deal of Marco Gonzales and Stephen Piscotty OR Randal Grichuk would get things done. Or, even better, if the Phillies would take Peter Bourjos as the outfielder. The Fox report said Philly is enamored with Bourjos. But if they're in a long term rebuilding situation, they may prefer younger and cheaper players.
People seem to think Hamels is a much better option that signing Max Scherzer to a free agent contract. And that may be if a surprise bidder comes out of the woodwork to make Scott Boras' desire of a $200 million contract more than wishful thinking. But if Scherzer can be had in the $150-$160 million range, I think the difference in the pay would justify keeping Gonzalez and the outfielders.
I keep hearing people say that Hamels is only guaranteed $90 million over the remainder of his contract which runs four years. But that's not true. First, he has a $6 million buyout if the $20 million option for a fifth year isn't picked up. That's at least $96 million for four years. But there is a vesting clause for the option which is entirely reachable. Hamels is guaranteed a $24 million fifth season if he pitches 400 innings in the last two years of the deal and isn't on the DL with a shoulder or elbow problem at the end of the fourth season. If not, the team who holds the contract can pick up the option for $20 million. So... Hamels could cost up to $120 million over five years.
Hamels has managed to pitch at least 200 innings in all but one season since 2007. In 2009 he pitched 193 2/3 and would have likely made it with one more start.
Despite his consistent innings totals, Hamels' history isn't exactly injury free. In 2006 he went on the DL with a shoulder injury. In 2007 he landed on the DL with what was described as a "mild elbow strain." In 2009 he missed his planned opening day start because of a tight elbow in spring training and then he was pulled early in back-to-back games because of a shoulder contusion. In 2011 he was scratched from starts in August because of shoulder stiffness. Prior to the 2012 season he underwent hernia surgery and an operation to clean up debris in his pitching elbow. In 2014 he again missed his scheduled opening day start due to injury, this time biceps tendonitis. He didn't make his season debut until April 23.