Last week, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX reported that the St. Louis Cardinals had expressed interest in veteran lefthanders David Price and Cole Hamels. On Thursday, Jim Salisbury reported on CSN Philadelphia that the Philadelphia Phillies were in "stare downs" with the Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, and San Diego Padres in an attempt to extract as much value as possible in exchange for Hamels. Salislbury speculates that Hamels will be dealt "eventually," but probably not this winter because the Phillies are having difficulty finding an offer that includes the prospect haul they desire.
That television interview is augmented by a Salisbury article, which echoes the thoughts he shared on video:
The Phillies’ price remains high for Hamels and they will not deal him unless they get the value they are looking for. They’ve been burned in the past by dealing aces Cliff Lee and Curt Schilling and they can’t afford for that to happen again. Amaro, with his job on the line, certainly can’t afford for it to happen. Those aware of the Phillies’ desires say the team would have to get two top talents to move Hamels, who is signed through 2018 at $96 million and possibly through 2019 at $110 million if his option kicks in.
Potential trade partners are well aware of what it would take to get Hamels. If a team blinks in this staredown, the Phillies will pull the trigger. If not, the Phils will hold onto Hamels and take offers into July. By then, Lee will have had time to show his wares. If he’s healthy, he’ll be a trade chip, too. Keep an eye on the Red Sox if Lee is healthy. They have always had a thing for him.
Right now, Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro is driving a hard bargain. With Hamels under contract for four years, there's no rush to trade him—other than the risk that he might suffer an injury that hurts his value like teammate Cliff Lee did. The Phillies want and need to start rebuilding, but Hamels is their most valuable asset and Amaro needs to leverage the lefty into as much talent as possible.
Left unreported is Philadelphia's willingness, if any, to eat a portion of Hamels's remaining salary. Unlike reports regarding players the Dodgers were shopping on the trade market earlier this Hot Stove, none of the reporting on Philadelphia's Hamels discussions has indicated that the Phillies are open to eating some of the $96 million in guaranteed money he is owed over the coming four years.
Potentially making the financial commitment to Hamels even larger is a vesting option that could trigger a fifth season. The invaluable Cot's Baseball Contracts summarizes the vesting option thusly:
2019 option guaranteed at $24M if Hamels 1) has 400 IP in 2017-18, including 200 IP in 2018, and 2) is not on the disabled list with a shoulder or elbow injury at the end of the 2018 season
By my math, the $24 million vesting option for 2019 would push the total value of Hamels contract to $114 million. Cot's also describes a club option for 2019 with a $6 million buyout and a $20 million salary. Jerry Crasnick's report on the contract at the time of its signing labels it a "club vesting option." MLB.com's Todd Zolecki indicates it's either a club option or a vesting option. So it appears there are two potential options for 2019, each with a different salary: a $24 million salary in the event the option vests or a $20 million salary if the club elects to exercise the option, with a $6 million buyout.
Surrendering two "top talents" in exchange for the obligation to pay Hamels at least $96 million over the next four years is not particularly palatable. This is likely why the Cardinals, Padres, Rangers, and Red Sox are currently each involved in a stare down with the Phillies. So far, no one has blinked. Most predictably, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak hasn't batted an eyelash. At Amaro's reported asking price, why would he?