Blockbuster trade brewing between Phillies and Red Sox?

Blockbuster trade brewing between Phillies and Red Sox?
August 12, 2014, 9:00 am
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Cole Hamels, who ranks sixth in MLB with a 2.37 ERA this season, is owed $96 million from 2015 through 2018. (USA Today Images)

The non-waiver trade deadline has passed, and the Phillies were subsequently unable to come to an agreement with the Cubs on a deal for Cole Hamels after Chicago reportedly claimed him last week.

But still, a blockbuster could be in the works.

The Phillies have been heavily scouting the Red Sox over these last two weeks, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.

"Don’t think in 30 years of covering baseball I’ve ever seen a team (the Phillies) spend so much time scouting another team (the Red Sox) and not pull the trigger on a deal," Cafardo wrote in his Sunday notes column. 

"Even after the trade deadline, the Phillies have had a scout in Boston, St. Louis, and Anaheim watching Boston’s young players. The match would be Cole Hamels for young players, and it may very well heat up this offseason. Hamels, according to a source close to him, would be open to a deal with the Red Sox."

There are few teams positioned to pull off a deal for Hamels. The Red Sox, Dodgers and Cubs stick out as three clear fits because of their deep pockets and flush farm systems.

Boston has numerous young pieces on the 25-man roster that could intrigue the Phillies, such as shortstop/third baseman Xander Bogaerts, centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and catcher Christian Vasquez.

The Red Sox seem to have genuine interest in Hamels. They traded their own left-handed ace, Jon Lester, to Oakland at the deadline for Yoenis Cespedes in a shrewd move based off of their uneasiness with Lester's impending free-agent pricetag. That is why Hamels may be more attractive to Boston in the winter -- he's owed $96 million over the next four seasons, while Lester's next contract could exceed $150 million. Same goes for right-hander Max Scherzer.

A year ago at this time, Bogaerts was an untouchable. He was one of the five-best prospects in the game according to nearly all minor-league experts, and he was still just 20 years old.

But Bogaerts, like Bradley, has had a dreadful season. In 108 games, Bogaerts has hit .230 with a .295 on-base percentage. He has 22 doubles, but just eight homers and 29 RBIs in 108 games. He also has 108 strikeouts with just 32 walks, an ugly ratio for a player praised for his plate discipline while in the minors.

Bogaerts was actually having a productive season early, but since June 4 has hit .152 in 52 games.

As for Bradley, there are no questions about his defense. He is an elite defensive centerfielder with tremendous instincts and an above-average throwing arm. He would be a massive upgrade over Ben Revere in those regards.

But his bat has not come around. Bradley is a .206 career hitter in 143 major-league games and has the lowest slugging percentage in baseball this season (.281).

Both players still have plenty of promise, though. Bogaerts is 21, Bradley is 24, and both raked in the minors. Bogaerts hit .296 on the farm with a lot of power, and Bradley hit .297 with a .404 on-base percentage.

Vasquez, a defensive-minded catcher, could also interest the Phils. Boston also has few intriguing young arms in Henry Owens and Allen Webster.

The Phillies' asking price for Hamels will be exceedingly high, and for good reason. He is among the game's top pitchers, ranking sixth in baseball with a 2.37 ERA. Over his last 18 starts, Hamels' ERA is 1.76. This has been, by far, the best regular season of his career.

With free-agent pitcher contracts sure to be obscene, Hamels could be the most sought-after trade commodity at the winter meetings. The Red Sox have the pieces to make a deal. And the Phillies, while extremely thin in pitching depth, are clearly giving it some thought. There just aren't many other ways to obtain difference-making young talent, and there's a good chance the Phils won't be a contending club during the life of Hamels' deal anyway.

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