Ruben Amaro Jr. downplayed reports that he is shopping pitcher Cole Hamels on the trade market. The Phillies general manager said he still hopes to sign the free-agent-to-be to a contract extension.
Our goal is the same, Amaro said in a telephone interview Monday. It hasnt changed. All this rumor and speculation is a product of the time of the year and the way weve been playing. Thats how this works. Our goal has always been to keep Cole Hamels in our uniform for a long time and that hasnt changed.
It has been speculated for weeks that the Phillies would gauge trade interest in Hamels if they didnt start to play better. Reports surfaced Sunday saying the Phillies were now doing that. Its worth noting that teams regularly gauge interest in all their players. Its called due diligence. All teams do it.
Im not commenting on reports, Amaro said. We dont comment on speculation.
The Phillies goal is to keep Cole in our uniform and fight to win the NL East, and if not to try be in the playoffs as a wild card team in 2012.
Amaro would not comment on the state of negotiations with Hamels representative, John Boggs.
We dont discuss those matters publicly, he said.
Amaro was asked if he was optimistic the team could still get a deal done with Hamels.
We have received no indication at any time that he doesnt want be in our uniform, Amaro said.
In February, Boggs said he expected Hamels to be paid like one of the elite left-handed pitchers in the game. Hamels teammate, lefty Cliff Lee, is paid 120 million over five years. Thats an average annual value of 24 million. It could take something like that, possibly in a six- or seven-year deal, to keep Hamels. Sources have said the Phillies are more concerned with the years Hamels is seeking than the annual dollars.
The Phils are nine games under .500 at the halfway point of the season. They are in last place, 11 games back in the NL East.
They have lost five in a row.
After Saturdays loss in Miami, Hamels was asked if the Phillies losing ways would impact his decision in the coming winter.
Im not even thinking about that, he said. Im trying to not lose. Like today. Ive got a game in five days, so thats all my focus.
Amaro had a similar answer when asked if he believed the teams woes in 2012 would impact Hamels free-agent decision.
Im more worried about the way were playing, he said. Im more worried about the 2012 Phillies. We have to figure out some way to play more consistent baseball. This is not acceptable.
The players have to figure out a way to play better.
If the Phils dont turn it around, Amaro could sell off talent later in July. Hamels, Lee, Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence would all interest contending teams. Amaro said time and circumstance would dictate if the Phils were to become sellers, but our goal is to win in 2012. He did say he is fielding calls from other clubs curious to see where the Phillies stand.
During this time of year you always field calls like that, especially this year with the way were playing, Amaro said. The trade deadline is July 31. Naturally, other teams are inquisitive about teams with great players.
Amaro covered a couple of other issues.
He said manager Charlie Manuels job was safe.
Absolutely, he said. Yes.
On Ryan Howards return to the lineup, he said: I can see him back not long after the all-star break.
On improving the bullpen, he said. Im not going to discuss those efforts publicly. It is an issue. But were losing games in all phases. Its on all of us. Me. Everybody. We win as team and we lose as a team. We dont lay blame. We just have to figure out a way to get better.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at firstname.lastname@example.org