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Rumor Mill: Four teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals in on potential Hamels trade

If the St. Louis Cardinals plan to make a trade for a starting pitcher instead of going the free agent route, they may find themselves standing when the tune stops in this high stakes game of musical chairs.

According to an NBC report, the Philadelphia Phillies are trying to stoke a bidding war over their lefty ace, Cole Hamels, between the Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers. As they try to extract the highest return in talent, the Phillies are apparently willing to let this situation stew until the summer months.

That leaves the Cardinals, in the meantime, waiting for the Max Scherzer free agent drama to play out, one way or another. Even if the Redbirds don't make a play for the Detroit Tigers' former Cy Young Award winner, they've been linked to fellow Motown hurler David Price as a possible trade target. But Detroit is unlikely to trade Price unless it wins the bidding and retains Scherzer. 

It seems Scherzer's agent, Scott Boras, is content to let his client's situation linger on for weeks if he doesn't get the offer he wants. So... If the Cardinals feel that adding a top starting pitcher is a requirement for a successful 2015, their best chance to land one may be to open up the vault for Scherzer. Otherwise they may have to wait until the summer to try to find a trade partner -- and they'll have to give up more of the kids.

A complicating factor that was another tidbit in the NBC report which claimed Hamels will require a team on his no-trade list to pick up his option year to approve a deal. That could work in the Redbirds' favor by putting Hamels out of the reach of competitors who, unlike St. Louis, are on the banned list. But it could work against them if Hamels decides the money is more important than the location.

With the additional year, Hamels would be guaranteed $110 million instead of the $96 he'd get for four years and a $6 million buyout. But the Cardinals wouldn't have to depart with any more of their depleted young talent stockpile to land Scherzer. The question is how much money are Carlos Martinez, Marco Gonzales, Stephen Piscotty, Randal Gricguk and Alex Reyes worth?

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