Cole Hamels to the Cubs would be a dream scenario

Cole Hamels to the Cubs would be a dream scenario
August 8, 2014, 11:15 am
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From left to right: Cubs president Theo Epstein, Phillies ace Cole Hamels and Phils GM Ruben Amaro Jr. (USA Today Images)

Let's preface this by saying it probably won't happen -- that despite the waiver claim on Cole Hamels awarded to the Cubs, no deal is imminent for the Phillies. In fact, Chicago Sun-Times Cubs beat writer Gordon Wittenmyer used the word "impossible." 

But crazier things have happened than an ace being traded to a big-market team on the rise, so it's worth looking into anyway.

(UPDATE: The waiver deadline for Hamels ended at 1:30 p.m. EST on Friday without a trade, according to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. The Phillies pulled Hamels off of waivers, but they could always re-visit trade discussions with the Cubs and other clubs in the offseason.)

Mike Missanelli of 97.5 The Fanatic first reported (via Twitter) that the team awarded the waiver claim on Hamels was the Cubs. At first, it seemed off. Why would a team 15 games under .500 place a claim on an expensive pitcher?

But the Cubs aren't your run-of-the-mill last-place team. They have a ton of young talent, both at the major-league level and nearing the bigs.

First baseman Anthony Rizzo has hit .281/.384/.506 with 25 home runs, second-most in the NL.

Starlin Castro, still just 24, is one of the premier offensive shortstops in the game.

Recently promoted middle infielder Javier Baez has homered three times already in his first three major-league games, and at 21 has jaw-dropping bat speed reminiscent of Gary Sheffield. Baez's work in the minor leagues with Cubs player/coach Manny Ramirez has made him even better -- Manny helped quiet Baez's swing and drive the ball the other way.

Then there's the bevy of prospects. Third baseman Kris Bryant, 22, is having an insane year, with 33 doubles, 37 homers, 96 RBIs and a .342 batting average in 115 games at Double A and Triple A. He's one of the top five prospects in the sport, as was Baez before his call-up.

The list goes on. Centerfielder Albert Almora is already at Double A at age 20, and owns a .298 minor-league batting average in 196 games. ranked him the 18th-best prospect in the game entering 2014.

Utilityman Arismendy Alcantara is another intriguing piece. A second baseman and shortstop in the minors, Alcantara was converted to center field when he was first brought up to the majors. At 22, he's held his own in The Show, hitting .240 with a .714 OPS and 10 extra-base hits in 116 plate appearances.

Let's not forget shortstop Addison Russell or outfielder Billy McKinney, either. That duo was dealt to Chicago from Oakland for Jeff Samardzija on July 5.

Russell is a top-notch shortstop prospect with superstar potential, an even more advanced version of J.P. Crawford. In Keith Law's mid-season prospect rankings, he had Russell ranked fourth overall. Bryant was first and Baez was eighth.

Russell has hit .301/.384/.524 in his minor-league career and is already on the cusp of the bigs at age 20.

Want some international flavor? How about Cuban defector Jorge Soler, who already has 37 doubles, 24 homers and 100 RBIs in 134 minor-league games. He's 22 and at Triple A.

Cubs front office men Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have cultivated an embarrassment of riches. It's unquestionably the top farm system in the game, so it's an exciting thought, Hamels' being claimed by the Cubs, a team to which he reportedly cannot block a trade.

A source told Wittenmyer that the Phillies targeted one of the Cubs' young shortstops. There are three of them -- Castro, Baez and Russell. But since Castro and Baez are both in the majors and on the 40-man roster, they'd need to clear waivers to be dealt for Hamels. There is zero chance either player would go unclaimed, thus removing them from serious consideration by Ruben Amaro Jr. and the Phils.

So the player the Phillies reportedly want has to be Russell, and despite the Cubs' wealth of young studs who play premium positions, you can understand their reluctance to part with him.

The Cubs need pitching, there's no debate there. But doesn't it make more sense for them to pursue free-agent starters rather than trade away from their deep farm system? There's a chance all of these guys are in the majors in the next year, creating what could eventually become a baseball dynasty if most or all of them pan out and Chicago can find some pitching.

Jon Lester and Max Scherzer will be free agents after the season. Same goes for James Shields. The next winter, David Price becomes available, as does Samardzija. The Cubs have the deep pockets and the payroll space to pay for one or two of them.

The advantage Hamels has on that group is cost certainty, and that's likely what attracted the Cubs to him so much in the first place. On top of being a 30-year-old left-handed ace with a 2.42 ERA, Hamels is owed $22.5 million per season over the next four years, a manageable price for a frontline starter.

Price, Lester, Scherzer ... they're all in line to sign six- or seven-year deals worth more than $150 million. They'll be more expensive financially than Hamels, but less expensive in prospect cost.

Envisioning Russell or Soler or Almora on the Phillies sure gets the juices flowing. It's a fun thought, Hamels to the Cubs. But for now, that's all it is.

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