Acquiring Cole Hamels Would Send a Clear Message to the World
The AL Central is becoming a lot more competitive. The Chicago White Sox have made many moves to strengthen their roster. After acquiring Brandon Moss, Chris Antonetti stated that the Tribe would look to add starting pitching. Could they be in the play for Cole Hamels? What would landing Hamels mean for a small market team like the Indians?
In acquiring Hamels the Indians would be landing a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. Over the last five season, Hamels has averaged a 3.00 ERA with a slightly higher 3.27 FIP. What really makes him stand out are his 8.6 K/9 and 3.84 strike out to walk ratio. He has also been very durable over that time span and has thrown more than 200 innings in each of those years. For teams with a young starting rotation like the Indians, durability and consistency are key. Current rotation members Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and Carlos Carrasco have struggled with consistency. Bauer and Salazar bounced between the majors and the minors while Carrasco spent a lot of time in the bullpen. Adding a guy like Hamels would strengthen the team in this aspect.
Suddenly the Indians look like a solid team. That starting rotation can match up against any other in the division and arguably the league. In my opinion, the Indians rotation+Hamels offers more depth and quality than any other in the Al Central.
But would the trade be worth the price of prospects?
In order to land him though the Indians would have to give up some niece prospects. A package headlined by Danny Salazar and Clint Frazier would make a good starting point. A few players such as Cody Anderson or Jesus Aguilar could be tossed in to help balance it out for both teams.
Michael Bourn, Michael Brantley, and Nick Swisher currently block Clint Frazier from reaching the majors. In a few years when Frazier is ready, Bourn and Swisher may be gone. However, the Indians have a deep outfield system, and other players such as James Ramsey and Mike Papi stand in Frazier’s way. Even though Frazier has a high upside, it will be a while before he would ever get consistent at bats in a Tribe uniform, and thus losing him is not nearly as a big a hit as it seems.
The Phillies on the other hand have an aging outfield. Marlon Byrd and former Indian Grady Sizemore currently patrol the outfield with Dominic Brown and Ben Revere spending time as two younger players. Brown is currently 27, and Revere will be 27 in May. By the time Frazier is ready, Brown and Revere will be in their primes and there should be an open spot for him.
Adding a starting pitcher will require a spot in the rotation. For this reason, losing Danny Salazar is not a huge deal. He has a high upside with the potential to be almost as good as Cole Hamels. However, he also has the potential to be nothing more than Ubaldo Jimenez if his change up does not develop. Salazar would fit nicely in the Phillies’ rotation, as he will only be 25 on Opening Day. For a rebuilding team like the Phillies, turning aging stars like Hamels into young players is crucial, and this trade would do just that.
But now the elephant in the room: Cole Hamels is owed $94 million over the next four years with a vesting option for a fifth. Adding such a player would completely max out the Indians budget, and strain the team in future years. The Indians could probably get the Phillies to eat $15 million of Hamels’ contract. However, adding a player with a large contract will send a clear message to the Indians fan base: We want to win, and are willing to spend to do it. A message like this would invigorate a fan base that has been longing for a winning team. Yes, the Indians did make the Post Season in 2013, but it was a one game play-off. The Indians have yet to go deep into the Post Season since 2007.
Adding Cole Hamels not only improves the current rotation, but it also improves the mindset. Spending big tells the fans that the oft critiqued ownership is willing to go over budget if it means fielding a competitive team with World Series aspirations.