Hamels, Lee, Rollins, Pence and More …
I don’t think it will be, though.
If the Phillies are willing to offer Hamels six years, which they are, then they are likely willing to offer him the money he wants (or at least get very close to it). And if the Phillies make that effort and Hamels still says no, well, then he made their decision to trade him easy. If he says yes, then they have Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Hamels together through next season, and that’s not a bad thing.
A few thoughts on this:
- If Hamels signs, what’s the plan? The Phillies could have more than $150 million committed to just 11 players for 2013: Lee ($25 million), Halladay ($20 million), Ryan Howard ($20 million), Chase Utley ($15 million), Jonathan Papelbon ($13 million), Jimmy Rollins ($11 million), Carlos Ruiz ($5 million), Kyle Kendrick ($4.5 million) and Laynce Nix ($1.35 million) are already signed. I’m not sure how Hamels’ deal will be structured, but let’s go with a projected AAV (average annual value) of $24 million per season. Hunter Pence, who is salary arbitration eligible for the final time, could earn around $14 million. That’s a ton of money for just 11 players. The luxury tax threshhold next season is $178 million. If the Phillies are willing to go well over the luxury tax (i.e. more than just a couple million or so) there’s no problem. But if they’re not then they have about $28 million to spend on the rest of the roster. Did we mention the holes on the roster next season could include center field, third base, left field (unless Domonic Brown becomes the guy) and a couple reliable bullpen pieces? Try adequately filling those holes (and completing the rest of the roster) for about $28 million.
- That’s why you’re hearing names like Lee, Rollins and Pence mentioned in trade speculation. It’s the only thing that makes sense: the Phillies are considering clearing salary. But I’m not sure how moving any of those players makes them better next season, unless they would get a ridiculous score of prospects in return. Can’t you see a situation next July — assuming the Phillies are contenders — where they are looking to fill a hole they created by trading Lee, Rollins or Pence? I can. They’ve already done it. They traded Lee in Dec. 2009 and found themselves needing a starting pitcher in July 2010, thus shipping prospects to Houston for Roy Oswalt. Would they let history repeat itself?
- I don’t trade Pence, unless I’m totally blown away with an offer. Why? Forget for a second his slow start with runners in scoring position. He’s still on pace for 29 home runs and 98 RBIs. If you trade Pence, who is going to be your right-handed power bat? Chooch? Carlos Ruiz is having a fantastic season, but he’s a 33-year-old catcher and he’s never hit like this before. It would be a tremendous leap of faith to enter 2013 believing he can do this again, and be the team’s primary power bat from the right side. The Phillies lost Jayson Werth following the 2010 season and bet on Ben Francisco. Francisco wasn’t up to the task, so the Phillies sent a bunch of prospects to Houston for Pence. Would they let history repeat itself?
- If the Phillies trade Rollins it means they are going with Freddy Galvis at shortstop. OK, he’s brilliant defensively and he’s cheap. But they better have a good backup plan for Utley. They can’t enter 2013 saying, “We like our infield because we’ll finally have Utley and Howard healthy the entire year,” after Utley missed the first couple months each of the previous two seasons. If they don’t have a good backup plan they could be going with Galvis and Michael Martinez (or a Mike Fontenot comparable). And that just won’t work. Plus, consider for a second Rollins’ .729 OPS is seventh among 23 qualifying shortstops in baseball. Yes, he leads the big leagues in infield pop ups, but consider the alternatives.
- The Phillies are 41-53 and 11 games behind the NL Wild Card leaders with eight teams ahead of them in the standings. Even if they sign Hamels to an extension, does it make any sense not to sell? I don’t think so, unless they go 7-1 or 8-0 before the deadline. Get what you can for what else you’ve got (other players still available to trade include Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton, Placido Polanco, Juan Pierre, etc.). You won’t get the haul you’ll get for Hamels, but you could get something that might help next season.