The Major League Baseball rumor mill is cyclical. The peak of trade gossip is experienced every July, as the non-waiver trade deadline looms. During the offseason, there's an uptick as well—usually during the Winter Meetings. The Hot Stove that has cooled with players reporting to spring-training camps in Arizona and Florida this week burned particularly hot with trades this winter. Normally, we'd be entering a lull of sorts, but Cole Hamels wants to be traded to a winner.
Over the course of the offseason, we've gobbled up rumors about Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, David Price, and Hamels. The Cardinals reportedly inquired about each big-name starter during the winter that was. Yet here we with spring in the air—regardless of the Groundhog Day results—and none of those hurlers are in Jupiter, sporting the birds on the bat after reporting along with the catchers.
After Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi reported that the Cards had inquired about Hamels, Jim Salisbury of CSN Philadelphia has diligently reported drip after drop of the Phillies' shopping of the lefty. He's documented that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. wants the sun, the moon, and the stars on Orion's Belt in order for him to assign Hamels's four- or five-year contract that is worth between $96 and $110 million, depending on what happens with the option year for 2019. The Phillies have no plans on eating any money.
Apparently distressed at having signed such a pact with a madman who is now holding him hostage and demanding a king's ransom, Hamels (or his agent—probably his agent) reached out to USA Today's Bob Nightengale for an interview. Hamels wants to win, so he wants out of Philly because they aren't going to be contending again anytime soon. Hamels isn't being particularly picky, either. Per Nightengale, he "loves St. Louis," but San Diego, Texas, and Boston appeal to him as well.
As Nightengale fans the Hamels trade flames, he reports a juicy tidbit regarding the discussions between the Cardinals and Phillies that ended in a stare down (to borrow Salisbury's turn of phrase from earlier in the winter), which resulted in the Cardinals opting to instead sign Carlos Villanueva and enter 2015 with a starting rotation that consists of Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, John Lackey, Michael Wacha, and probably Carlos Martinez—with lefties Marco Gonzales, Tyler Lyons, and Tim Cooney in reserve and the surgery-riddled Jaime Garcia an open question mark. Nightengale reports:
The Phillies keep shopping Hamels, and have had plenty of talks with the likes of the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox, but continue to await an acceptable proposal. They won't trade Hamels to Boston without getting catching prospect Blake Swihart in return. The Padres' offer of prospects Hunter Renfroe and Austin Hedges isn't enough. The Dodgers have yet to include any of their top four prospects in a proposal. And the Phillies won't listen to the St. Louis Cardinals unless pitcher Carlos Martinez is in a deal.
And that's why Hamels is in Phillies camp, pleading for a trade, instead of a contender's spring-training clubhouse, talking about winning a pennant. Amaro Jr.'s asking price is steep and interested GMs so far have been content to call his bluff. After the injuries to Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, why not? The Phillies have to be a little concerned that Hamels might sustain an injury himself between now and the high point of the late-summer trade market.
The Cardinals' plans may very well change in the coming five months. After all, in February of 2014, who would have guessed that Joe Kelly would be dealt in July and Shelby Miller in November? Needs change and intensify, especially in the heat of a pennant race. That's the other half of Amaro Jr.'s gamble, that interested clubs will meet his asking price later this year, when the pennant race is ramping up and October glory is on the line.
For now, though, Hamels is the Phillies' ace, hoping to be traded. Martinez is the Cardinals' fifth starter, looking to establish himself as a long-term member of the St. Louis rotation. Already an intriguing 2015 storyline is developing: Where will each pitcher be come August 1?