So much for long-term contract negotiations, huh? In a surprise move less than a week before Opening Day, the Philadelphia Phillies have traded star pitcher Cole Hamels to the Washington Nationals, of all teams.
In return, the Phillies receive starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, utility man Mark DeRosa, outfielder Rick Ankiel and a player to be named later. But don’t get too excited about that other player; super-prospect Bryce Harper will not be that guy.
“We hate to see Cole go, but we really didn’t have a choice,” Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “We thank him for his service to the Philadelphia Phillies and wish him the best in Washington.”
If you’ve been following our site over the last few months, you’ll know that I have said that trading Cole Hamels was in the Phillies’ best interests. But I never thought it would actually happen, and I especially didn’t think he would be traded to a division rival that’s on the rise.
In Washington, Hamels will lead a rotation that includes up-and-comers Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez.
From the Phillies’ perspective, this deal has me quite flabbergasted. For one, why would you trade Hamels within the division, to a team that now has a good chance to beat you out for the division title? Second, if you’re going to trade Hamels within the division, why wouldn’t you get more than a middle-of-the-road pitcher, yet another utility man, and an outfielder who isn’t an improvement over what you already have?
Amaro, for once, sounded pretty frank with his response to those topics. Here’s what he had to say:
“Our first priority was signing Cole to a long-term deal. But when he and his agent John Boggs indicated to us that they were planning to test the free agent market next off-season, we knew we had to do something. We weren’t going to let a player like Cole go for nothing.
“Trading Cole within the division is not necessarily ideal, but it’s not the worst thing, either. The Nationals aren’t the only team we’ll need to beat if we want to reach our ultimate goal – which is the World Series.
“We think the pieces we received in return for Cole will help us immediately. Plus, the money this deal frees up will allow us to turn our attention to long-term contracts for Shane (Victorino) and Hunter (Pence).”
So just how will this trade affect the Phillies this year? They were already extremely deep in the starting rotation, so even though Hamels is much better than Edwin Jackson, his loss isn’t devastating – thanks to the presence of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.
Still, since Philly didn’t receive players in return who could be considered big upgrades on offense, you’d have to think they will experience a drop-off. Maybe a season of 85 to 88 wins is more in line for the Philies, which still could be good enough for that extra Wild Card playoff spot.
And if they get in the playoffs still, who knows what could happen? Just look at the St. Louis Cardinals last year.