Examining the Lee, Hamels trade rumors

Examining the Lee, Hamels trade rumors

Salisbury on Halladay retiring, needs at winter meetings

December 10, 2013, 11:45 am

Cliff Lee ($62.5 million) and Cole Hamels ($118.5 million) are both due big pay days over the next several years. (AP)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Tuesday morning’s juicy rumor at the winter meetings, compliments of ESPN, has the Phillies listening to offers for ace left-handers Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.

Let’s examine:

The key word here is listening. Any general manager worth his salt is going to listen to any and all inquiries about his players. You never know when you might unexpectedly be blown away.

As recently as Friday, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told CSNPhilly.com that he has talked with other clubs “about every player on our roster” (see story).

Clearly, Domonic Brown and Jonathan Papelbon could be had in a trade (see story). The Phils have been eager to trade Papelbon since July. They would move Brown in a sell-high deal if the return were significant. They are not going to give away a 26-year-old player who hit 27 home runs last season. Sure, Brown is suspect defensively, but there’s still upside there. The Phillies would need to get something good to move him.

How about Hamels and Lee?

Dealing one of these two guys would be a statement to the fans that the team is conceding the chance to win in 2014 and shifting into a rebuilding mode. It’s difficult to see the Phillies go in a rebuilding direction at this moment. If they intended to rebuild, why did they re-sign Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz? We’ll acknowledge that one of their stated goals in keeping Utley was exposing young players to his intangibles. But Ruiz? The Phillies sunk $26 million into him because they wanted him to handle their pitching staff. If they intended to trade either Hamels or Lee, they should have gone cheaper behind the plate.

Hamels is one year into the richest contract in Philadelphia sports history and has five years and $118.5 million remaining on the deal. Lee is guaranteed $62.5 million over the next two seasons.

We floated the idea of trading one of these two guys by several people who are have knowledge of the inner workings of the Phillies organization.

One guy said: “They’re not going to win next year. Why not trade one of them?”

Another guy said: “Are they crazy? Sounds like a smokescreen.”

Another guy said: “I think they’d trade Lee, but not Hamels. The fans love Hamels. No way (club president) David Montgomery trades Cole Hamels. They still have to make money.”

The money issue is a good point. Though expectations are low for the Phillies in 2014, it is not impossible that things fall right for them and they contend for a wild-card spot. If they were to get to October, their best chance of success lies on the backs of the 1-2 punch of Hamels and Lee. If the Phils were to deal one of these guys now, they would tell their fans that they believe they have no chance in 2014. That’ll sell some tickets.

There would be hurdles in moving Hamels or Lee. Both have limited no-trade clauses, but they have a way of going away. Any team that wants one of the lefties must be ready to take on a huge salary and give the Phillies multiples of big talent in return. That's not an easy combo. The acquiring team might have to take Papelbon, too. If the Phils really want to shed his prickly presence from their clubhouse, it would be wise to tie the two to each other.

If the Phils, as many expect, are not contenders in 2014, they can shop Lee for a nice score in June and July. A team that wants to win the World Series will give up something for him. Sure, it’s risky. Lee is 35 and injury is always a possibility. But the game is full of risks.

Will the Phils take a big risk -- both on the field and at the ticket window -- and deal Hamels or Lee? Stay tuned. It’s Day 2 of the winter meetings and the rumor mill is just getting loose.