Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels could be on the trade market this year if the Phillies decide to rebuild. is he a fit in Atlanta? Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Could The Atlanta Braves Trade For Cole Hamels?

All of the pitching trade talk so far surrounds David Price and Jeff Samardzija but those trades aren’t likely to happen. Another not likely to happen is an in division exchange for one of the Phillies Aces, Col Hamels.  So on an Independence day after an off day I thought a look at how such a trade might work.

Why Trade Hamels?

In spite of a resolute attitude from Rueben Amaro Jr., the Phillies are done for the year and probably for two or three; the team is old, hamstrung by big contracts and their farm system is baren. He’s said that he doesn’t want to go into a long rebuilding program but would rather retool more quickly.

“I can’t blow this team up for five years and expect us to be [bad] for the next five or six years,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the right way to go about our franchise. Our fans, our organization, I think we owe it to a lot of people. If we do have to go into a transition, it’s going to be a shorter one than that.

“There’s ways to do it. You have to make shrewd moves, make intelligent moves and try to continue to do that so that the drop-off isn’t long term. So if we have to go a step backward for a year or two to move forward, then that’s what we’ll try to do.”

He’s right in the sense that given free rein to trade whomever he wishes, the Phillies could do a booming business in July and even into August. They have players teams need – Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Marlon Byrd, Jonathan Papelbon for example –and who would bring back two or three prospects a piece if ownership is willing to swallow some money. The one name that should interest the Braves is Cole Hamels.

Why Trade for Hamels?

Hamels is pretty good at this pitching thing

Born and raised a Philly, Hamels has been the backbone of their staff since 2007. He was NLCS and World Series MVP in 2008 and finished sixth in Cy Young voting that year, fifth in 2011 and eighth in 2012 on a team that just barely hung on to be a 500 team. In that time only five pitchers have started more than 210 NL games and Hamels is the best of them.

Player ERA GS G W L IP SO FIP ERA+
Cole Hamels 3.29 235 236 92 71 1558.0 1458 3.48 124
Matt Cain 3.34 240 240 79 81 1562.0 1287 3.67 117
Tim Lincecum 3.50 237 238 96 75 1511.1 1599 3.25 111
Kyle Lohse 3.86 217 220 84 59 1314.1 830 3.99 104
Bronson Arroyo 4.17 244 244 98 87 1535.2 975 4.65 99
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/3/2014.

In spite of that success and adopting a grass is always greener approach, the Phillies continued to try and become the Braves of the 90’s but instead of building most of it from within and adding the one piece that finished the rotation perfectly, they went big by first acquiring Cliff Lee then inexplicably trading him only to big again a year later to sign him back They also signed Roy Halladay and even traded for Roy Oswalt. While everyone was talking about Lee and Halladay, Hamels was quietly as good as both, starting more games, throwing more innings and striking out more hitters while amassing 31.4 rWAR.

Pitching Stats for Years 2007 to 2013  
  W L GS ERA ERA+ FIP WHIP IP
Cole Hamels 90 66 221 3.31 124 3.50 1.132 1464 1/3
Cliff Lee 90 58 202 3.12 131 3.03 1.115 1431
Roy Halladay 108 57 199 3.17 132 3.19 1.128 1413
                 
  BB SO H9 HR9 BB9 SO/9 SO/W CG/SHO
Cole Hamels 346 1364 8.1 1 2.1 8.4 3.94 13/6
Cliff Lee 233 1269 8.6 0.8 1.5 8 5.45 26/12
Roy Halladay 259 1175 8.5 0.8 1.6 7.5 4.54 43/12

In the post season he’s been superb as well. In 13 starts over 5 post season series Hamels threw 81 2/3 innings posting a 7-4 record with a 3.09 ERA.and1.053 WHIP, striking out 77 and walking 21. In summation, Hamels isn’t Clayton Kershaw but neither is Price. He is a however a top of the rotation stud lefty, who would become the Ace of most staffs and the kind of pitcher the GM Frank Wren keeps saying he wants. That’s great but what would it take to get him?

To get value you must give value

Understand this, no team with common sense is going to give away an asset like Hamels. A trade must provide perceived value for each team and Hamels would not come cheap nor should he. The Braves would have to part with a major league ready player(s) and prospects as well as take on salary to make the trade happen. Leaving payroll issue aside for the moment lets try to guess what the Phillies would ask for and what they might actually get. As in all math problems we have to set out the variables and the values and to do that we need a way to value players. For current bi league players it’s generally accepted that one WAR is worth between $6M and $7M a year in payroll so I’ll use that for current major players. Knowing that we have our first constant; Hamels value.:

  • Hamels has been and projects as a 3.5 – 4 fWar player.
  • The Phillies will want at least a 4 fWAR return and because it’s in division more.

Finding value in a trade

In 2009 Sky Kalkman wrote a piece on valuing prospects in a trade based on earlier work by Victor Wang. I updated the numbers for inflation since his piece and will use those for prospects..

Asset Value (2009) in $M Vaue (2014)
Top 10 hitting prospects $36.50 40.52
Top 11-25 hitters $25.10 27.86
Top 26-50 hitters $23.40 25.97
Top 51-75 hitters $14.20 15.76
Top 76-100 hitters $12.50 13.88
Top 10 pitching prospects $15.20 16.87
Top 11-25 pitchers $15.90 17.65
Top 26-50 pitchers $15.90 17.65
Top 51-75 pitchers $12.10 13.43
Top 76-100 pitchers $9.80 10.88
Grade B pitchers (as graded by Sickels) $7.30 8.10
Grade B hitters $5.50 6.11
Grade C pitchers 22 or younger $2.10 2.33
Grade C pitchers 23 or older $1.50 1.67
Grade C hitters 22 or younger $0.70 0.78
Grade C hitters 23 or older $0.50 0.56

Getting a prospect ranking that everyone agrees on is impossible so I took the MLB.com ranks, added the John Sickles grades to the list then plucked a few more ranks from Scouting the Book to build this list. I know everyone will want to argue over it but I won’t. I have to have a value basis so this is it.
Prospect / Rank
Braves 
Value

Sickles
B+ Lucas Sims (MLB 48) 1 $17.25M
B- Christian Bethancourt (MLB 64) 2 $15.76M
B- Jose Peraza (MLB 99) SS 3 $6.1M
B- Jason Hursh (154) 4 $8.1M
B- Mauricio Cabrera (179) 5 $6.1M
B- JR Graham (123) 6 $8.1M
B Tommy La Stella (95) 2B 7 $6.1M
C+ Victor Caratini (281) c/3B 8 $780K
C+ Cody Martin RHP 9 $1.7M
MR Kyle Kubitza 3B 10 $560K
C+ Johan Camargo SS 11 $780K
NR Carlos Salazar RHP 12 $2.33M
C Edward Salcedo (288) 3B 13 $780K
C+ Aaron Northcraft RHP 14 $1.67M
C Todd Cunningham (412) OF 15 $560K
C+ Kyle Wren OF 16 $560K
C Shae Simmons RHP 17 $1.67M
NR Alec Grosser 18 $2.33M
C Wes Parsons RHP 19 $2.33M
NR Victor Reyes 20 $780K
C+ Josh Elander OF NR $560K
C Ian Thomas  LHP NR $560K
NR Nate Hyatt (457) NR $560K
C+ Joey Terdoslavich (465) NR $560K

Negotiation

A quick look at Fangraphs shows Hamels to be a close comparable to David Price in most areas save strikeouts so it’s safe to assume Amaro would want a Price-like return for Hamels particularly if he were to trade him within the division. He would be loathe to do that and the price would have to be higher to get him to take the deal. Herewith a fantasy conversation.

FW: So Rueben would you consider trading Hamels?
RA: I’ll listen on anyone Frank.
FW: What would it take?
RA: Because it’s you and we’re friends Frank I’d do it for Mike Minor, Lucas Sims, Jason Hursh and Christian Bethancourt.
FW: Ah yes Rueben I’m sure you would but quit fantasizing and get real for a minute. You have a three War pitcher
RA: Four
FW Whatever.. Minor’s going to continue to be that so if you want him I’d include Northcraft, and Thomas. if you want more you need to take back some of his salary.
RA: I need more than that, after all you are going to beat us to death with him for the next few years.
FW As you will with Minor
RA  Touché . . . how about Minor, Peraza, and Hursh?
FW Not happening. . .

And so on and so forth

In the end probably could get done for Minor, Cabrera, Martin/Northcraft and Thomas plus a PTBNL if they throw in Antonio Bastardo

Why Not?

Aside from the fact that it’s the Phillies (more important to the fans than the teams) the obvious reason not to is payroll. Hamels makes $22M a year from now through 2018 with a couple of expensive options in 2019 when he’ll be 35. I’d want them to take back part of this year’s money and include enough assets to make that agreeable, At the end of the year Santana drops off the books so the future impact isn’t as big as it might be but it’s still a good chunk of money. When compared to what we might have to pay should we try to extend the other two most discussed pitchers and the value received. Hamels provides payroll certainty and what will become a more friendly contract over time. With Hamels you know what the cost is, will be and honestly it’s market value for a top of the rotation guy.

Why trade Minor?

It sounds counter intuitive to trade a controllable arm like Minor but there are reasons to do it.

  • Minor will become progressively more expensive as his arbitration years progress. He isn’t a guy who will sign for less in Atlanta and every year will be an arb cost battle.
  • He and the Braves haven’t seen eye to eye since the beginning of last year and any extension hopes are slim at best. He sees the Braves (with some justification) as undervaluing his contribution
  • He’s the highest value chip available without savaging the farm system
  • He’s directly replaced by Hamels
  • The object is to win now and Hamels is more likely to make that happen.

The prospect price is too high?

Well no. Martin, Thomas and Cabrera are blocked and replaceable.

The prospect price is too low?

Maybe,maybe not depending on how the teams value the players. They do not subscribe to the values put out by web sites but use internal values based on their metrics and plans. Perhaps Matt Lipka, and Todd Cunningham would have to be included to make Amaro appear to be making a coup but they are replaceable too; remember Kyle Wren is coming fast.

Do you say there’s a chance?

The odds of it even being discussed are in decimal points of a percentage point but they did reportedly discuss moving Gattis to left so. . . . GM is not known for out of the box thinking and the trade for Justin Upton aside this large a deal isn’t his cup of tea. He isn’t likely to change now and while justifiable, trading Minor mid-year would cause a shockwave in Braves country that he wouldn’t like to try and explain.

That’s A Wrap

Before the shouts of derision rain down upon me consider what the deals being proffered for Price and Samardzija look like. Adding Cole Hamels to Julio Teheran at the top of our rotation – Teheran, Hamels, Santana, Wood, Hale/Harang – makes all kinds of sense. He’s a veteran top of the rotation starter with proven post season chops, he’s a leader for the younger arms and has know cost over the next six years that makes him a moveable object if needed. I hear arguments for substituting Alex Wood for Minor already forming but remember the value for value swap. Including Woody would mean adding another good prospect – Hursh for example – as well. I understand that we are far more likely to see a trade Jason Hamel than Cole Hamels in our rotation but it sure would be nice to have him.

Tags: Atlanta Braves Trade

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