Cole Hamels wants out of Philadelphia
Cole Hamels trade rumors have been a common theme this winter, with a handful of teams reported to be active in talks with the Phillies only to be put off by the high price tag Ruben Amaro Jr. has put on the head of his ace. Hamels has remained quiet throughout the offseason regarding his next potential destination but finally broke his silence yesterday to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale:
I just want to win. That's all. That's all any competitor wants. And I know it's not going to happen here. This isn't what I expected. It's not what the Phillies expected, either. But it's reality.
Nightengale made it clear that Hamels wasn’t demanding a trade and that he expresses no ill will toward the organization. However, a rebuild isn’t what the southpaw signed up for when he signed a six-year deal back in 2012. This shouldn’t come as too much of a shock and neither should Hamels telling Nightengale that he would waive his no-trade clause to go to the Red Sox. There are 20 teams on Hamels’ no-trade list (the Yankees, Rangers, Padres and six unknown NL teams aren’t on it), but at this point, that list serves more as a way for Hamels to leverage the contender that eventually trades for him into picking up his option, rather than a means of staying in Philadelphia.
The other interesting bit from Nightengale’s article: the specific players in a few potential trades that have either been proposed or shot down by the Phillies. Blake Swihart’s name has come up in previous reports, and according to Nightengale, the Phillies continue to demand the prized backstop in a deal with the Red Sox. The same goes for Carlos Martinez in any potential deal with the Cardinals. The Dodgers have reportedly refused to include any of their elite prospects in trade talks. Then there are the Padres, who reportedly offered both Austin Hedges and Hunter Renfroe in a package that was turned down by the Phillies.
How you feel about the hypothetical return for Hamels from San Diego likely depends on how strongly you value catcher defense, but Hedges’ defensive chops have always drawn high praise by scouts and are backed up by the metrics. However, if Nightengale’s report is true, it seems that the Phillies don’t consider Hedges the type of impact prospect they’re willing to build a deal around.
There’s also a decent chance this was the “aggressive offer” Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported the Padres made prior to inking James Shields to a deal last week. If that’s the case, it’s even more unlikely that A.J. Preller would now be willing to include a third blue chipper to a deal.
It remains likely that Hamels will don a Phillies uniform come Opening Day; Amaro isn’t getting the type of return he feels is necessary to trade away his biggest trade chit and stands a better chance at getting a team to overpay come the trade deadline. Playing the waiting game runs the obvious risk of injury or a possible decline in performance, but Amaro only gets one chance to bring in a massive haul for Hamels. It’s clear he’s willing to wait to make sure it counts.
Braves showing strong interest in Jackie Bradley Jr.
At this time last year, Jackie Bradley Jr. entered spring training with Boston’s starting center field job seemingly his to lose. He ranked no. 23 on the BP Top 101 and appeared destined to become the center fielder of the future with Jacoby Ellsbury gone. Despite being optioned back to Triple-A shortly before the start of the season after losing the position battle to Grady Sizemore during the spring, Bradley was called back up in time for Opening Day after Shane Victorino strained his hamstring.
But oh, how much difference a year can make for a prospect’s perceived value. Bradley proved to have a ton of swing-and-miss in his game and provided little pop to make up for it, resulting in a horrendous .198/.265/.266 line across 423 plate appearances. The Red Sox subsequently demoted him in August with whispers of stubbornness and resistance to advice from his coaches. Fast-forward to the present time and Bradley is buried at the back of a deep Boston outfield depth chart and failed to crack the top 10 of Boston’s 25-and-under list.
Bradley has youth on his side and still possesses the tremendous reads off the bat and incredible route efficiency that make him an elite defensive center fielder, so the Red Sox are probably hesitant to sell low on him in a trade. However, it’s going to be difficult for Bradley’s stock to rise in a part-time role with the major-league club. If the Red Sox feel comfortable with their outfield rotation of Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo and Shane Victorino, there’s little to be lost by exploring what kind of value they can extract for Bradley on the trade market. The Braves have let the Red Sox know that if it does come to that point, they would have strong interest in acquiring Bradley, according to Peter Gammons of ESPN.
The path to playing time would be much clearer in Atlanta for Bradley. B.J. Upton is slated to start the season in center after the Braves were unable to convince other teams to pick up even a fraction of his contract this offseason, but it’s unlikely he would stand in the way of significant playing time for Bradley. Even if Atlanta decided they wanted to find consistent playing time for Upton (which wasn’t even the case last September), it’s not as if either Johnny Gomes and Zoilo Almonte have a stranglehold on playing time in left field.
The Braves aren’t expected to compete in 2015, so buying low on Bradley and providing him the playing time to straighten out his approach at the plate would be a sensible move toward the future if John Hart & Co. can convince the Red Sox to part ways with the former top prospect. For the time being, however, this is merely a story to file away until the outfield picture in Boston becomes clearer in spring training; Gammons writes that any serious trade talks between the two sides is unlikely to take place before St. Patrick’s Day.