FORT MYERS, Fla. Wednesdays news that the Los Angeles Dodgers had been sold for a whopping 2 billion to a group that includes former NBA great Magic Johnson and well-known baseball executive Stan Kasten was certainly noticed in the Phillies front office.
The Dodgers are one of baseballs premier franchises and you can bet that Johnson, Kasten and their deep-pocketed partners will be looking to bring the club to the top of the National League in a hurry.
You can also bet they will look to make a splashy talent acquisition to lead that rise, possibly a pitcher with Southern California roots, a great changeup and a World Series MVP trophy.
Of course, were talking about Cole Hamels, the Phillies lefthander who could become a free agent after this season.
It is not difficult to envision Hamels pitching in Chavez Ravine wearing one of those brilliant white Dodgers uniforms.
Not difficult at all.
But, still, I dont see it happening.
The Phillies have been trying to negotiate a contract extension with Hamels for months, and with opening day just eight days away you could say the negotiations have reached a critical stage. Though Hamels side has not set any deadlines, opening day has to be considered a pivotal date for both sides because once the season starts Hamels price tag can go up with a strong performance or down with a poor performance. There is also the risk of injury, a reality that came to the fore with the recent news that Hamels former Phillies teammate, Ryan Madson, himself a potential free agent this winter, will need season-ending elbow surgery.
For months, the belief here has been that the Phillies will sign Hamels. Hes young (28), talented, home-grown and involved in the community all characteristics that the franchise and chief decision-maker David Montgomery value greatly. He helped the club win a World Series. At a time when this clubs position-player nucleus -- the hitters -- is getting old, it is important that the Phillies remain strong in the pitching department. Roy Halladay will be 35 this season. Cliff Lee will be 34. The Phils need Hamels to take the pitching staff into the future - and they know that.
Both sides have been extremely tight-lipped about the negotiations, but throughout spring training there has been a feeling of general optimism around the Phillies that something will get done, maybe not by opening day, but not too far off into the season. One person with knowledge of the situation says the Phils know how much Hamels will cost -- 20 million or more per season and are set to pay it. The person said the length of the deal is an issue, that the Phillies would like to do a four-year deal and Hamels wants more. No surprise there as he would certainly get more years than that on the open market.
Another person with knowledge of the situation says the two sides have made good progress in negotiations and the person predicts a signing in the not-too-distant future.
Phillies fans arent the only ones curious to see how this drama plays out.
You can bet the Dodgers new owners are, too.