Are the Astros a “Sleeper” in the Cole Hamels sweepstakes

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During the 2014 Winter Meetings, the Philadelphia Phillies started their rebuilding effort by trading Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers. After years of people saying that it’s time to break-up the Phillies, the time has arrived. Their biggest trading chip could be their ace pitcher Cole Hamels, who has been linked to several teams who are interested in a trade. A new team has emerged in the Hamels trade discussion, and it’s a welcomed sight.

According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, “The Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, and Rangers are interested in Hamels. The sleeper team is the aggressive Astros. The Giants may be in if they can’t get James Shields. The feeling has been that if the Red Sox would pick up Hamels’s 2019 option at $20 million, he would waive his no-trade. The five years remaining on Hamels’s deal would be worth $110 million. Would he want an extension beyond that to OK a trade?”

“The Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, and Rangers are interested in Hamels. The sleeper team is the aggressive Astros.”-Nick Cafardo

Any Astros fan’s first thought is probably one of excitement, until they realize that Hamels might cost the Astros either Mark Appel or Carlos Correa, and more prospects. So is it worth it for the Astros to trade assets for an ace when there will be a fresh new set of free agent pitchers before the 2016 season? Lets look at what a potential trade would have to look like for both teams to pull the trigger.

What you need to know about Cole Hamels

Hamels is 30 years old, with 8 years of MLB pitching experience with the Phillies. Last year in 2014, he went 9-9 with 2.46 ERA, 1.148 WHIP , 198 strikeouts in 202 innings. Over the past 5 years, he has averaged about 212 innings and 204 strikeouts per season. His early career was marked by injuries, but has rebounded without major injuries the past five years. His current contract is guaranteed though the 2018 season for 94 million dollars, with a team option of 20 million for 2019. In 2019, instead of the team option, Hamels could have a vested option of 24 million (6 million buyout)  if…

1)  In 2017-2018 he pitches 400 innings (including 200 innings in 2018).

2) If he does not end the 2018 season on the DL with arm or shoulder issues.

So Hamels will come with a contract that could be worth $118 million over 5 years. Most of the higher payroll teams might balk at adding that type of contract, but the Astros are in a promising position with having one of the lowest payrolls in the major leagues. So if the Astros agree to take on the entire contract from the Phillies, there can be some wiggle room in what prospects the Astros have to give up.

Why Would the Astros want Cole Hamels?

The current Astros rotation appears to be Dallas Keuchel, Scott Feldman, Collin McHugh, Brett Oberholtzer, and possibly Michael Foltynewicz. While Feldman has the most experience of all the other pitchers, I believe that Keuchel is the “ace” of the Astros staff. Keuchel has only 3 years of MLB experience. Imagine inserting Cole Hamels into the number one slot, Feldman and Keuchel don’t have the pressure of being the “ace”. The average age of the above rotation would be 26.6 years, but add Cole Hamels and take out Foltynewicz, the experience age goes up to 28 years.

Adding someone like Cole Hamels to the Astros will bring a certain amount leadership to the rotation and team as a whole. By making this commitment to Hamels, it might put the Astros back on the map after the trading of veterans for prospects over the past 5 years. The Astros were able to sign some relievers, but it appears that most other players steered clear of the Astros.

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What would it take to trade for Cole Hamels

First of all, Hamels would want to go to a winning team. He has a no trade clause to the Astros, so Luhnow and Co. might have to get creative with convince Hamels to waive his no trade clause to Houston. At the end of his current contract, he will be 35 years old; so does this mean the Astros have to tack on an extra year or so to convince him? Can Jeff Luhnow convince Hamels that the Astros will be winners after years of being losers?

In a interview with MLB Network radio, Cole Hamels tells where his ideal trade destinations would be.

Now for the Phillies, what would they want back in a trade? One thing is for sure, the more they have to pay on Hamels contract, the better the prospects they will want in return. I’m guessing that Carlos Correa and Mark Appel are untouchable. This is solely speculation, but I can see a trade centered around 2 of the 3-5 top Astros prospects (according to mlb.pipeline) Domingo Santana, Michael Foltynewicz, or Colin Moran. If the Phillies are not interested in Foltynewicz, I see them going after someone I referred to as the next Johan Santana in an earlier articleMichael Feliz or current major leaguer Oberholtzer.

It’s hard to speculate what players will be involved in the trade, because it depends on how desperate the Phillies are in trading Cole Hamels. That’s up to the GM’s to come up with the assets to be included. Astros fans, lets not go overboard yet. In fantasy baseball, a “sleeper” is someone who could come out of nowhere to be a star player, or become a bust. Could the Astros make a move to get Hamels? They have prospects, they have cap space, and they appear to be ready to go for it. Whether or not the Astros are really sleepers in the trade market for Hamels, it’s good to know that this could be an option after years of selling.

If more news comes on Hamels, don’t go to sleep on it, check back here on Climbing Tal’s Hill…

For more on Michael Foltynewicz, Astros Tell Folty to Get Ready for Rotation.

Could Hamels be added to my 2017 World Series Roster?

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