Can the Astros Get Cole Hamels?

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After the success of last week’s “trade Dexter Fowler” day, not just in terms of readership but also in terms of the accuracy of the most popular idea, Climbing Tal’s Hill decided we would try another, this time focusing on one of the Astros catchers.  The Astros have an abundance of catchers, after the trade for Hank Conger added the former Angel to former All-Star Jason Castro and Carlos Corporan.  Of course, the Astros pre-empted us this time around and traded Corporan to Texas, but I decided that one of the organizations who could be interested in such a trade would be the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Phillies starting catcher, Carlos Ruiz, is now 36 years old and saw his batting average drop to almost .250 for the first time since 2009.  Backup catcher, Cameron Rupp has 22 games in the majors under his belt and his average last season, in 18 games, is .183.  A third catcher, currently on roster, Tommy Joseph, has a minor league average of .251.

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  • It, therefore, seems reasonable that Philadelphia might be interested in a catcher.  Possibly not one of the Astros catchers, as Evan Drellich noted in a recent Houston Chronicle article, the two remaining at Minute Maid Park have their drawbacks.

    Despite Corporan’s departure undermining the original idea for this article, the possibility of bringing one of the Phillies stars to Houston stuck in my mind.  You see, the Phillies have one of the things that the Astros (or at least the Astros fans) covet the most: an elite arm.  And a leftie at that.

    It’s only been a few hours since Phillies GM Ruben Amaro confidently stated “I think Cole Hamels is going to be in our uniform, frankly” in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer.

    Amaro did, however, add that:

    "That said, he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball. And so, if we were to move him, we’re going to have to get some of the best prospects in baseball back."

    Some of the best prospects in baseball?  Well that is one thing that the Houston Astros just happen to have.  The question is what prospects would the Luhnow administration be prepared to deal in order to bring in a star, but aging, arm.

    Hamels is 31 now and is two years into a 6-year, $144m extension and is scheduled to make $22.5m each of the next four seasons, then $19m in 2019 (although his contract has a $6m buyout at that point).  That 2019 paycheck will jump to $24m if he throws 400 innings in 2017-2018, inclusive of at least 200 in 2018 and is not on the disabled list at the end of 2018.  So there is a durability clause, and he has thrown 1801.1 innings, although he has pitched in at least thirty games in each season since his 2007 All-Star year.  Plus, we are only talking about Hamels’ durability for four years, unlike, say Max Scherzer over seven.

    We also have to consider what we have that could persuade Philadelphia from parting with Hamels.  We can still offer them Max Stassi, who still has the look of a guy who will be in AAA for at least the first part of the upcoming season.  He has shown promise in AAA, but the AAA-MLB jump has proven insurmountable for many a young prospect.

    Jake Marisnick is, as noted by Ryan Gonzalez elsewhere on the site this week, somewhat expendable with the recent trade activity emanating from Minute Maid Park.

    The reality, however, seems to be that Philadelphia are going to ask for a lot more than prospects that the Astros consider expendable.  The Astros topped The Sporting News‘s top farm system rankings; the Phillies were 25th.  This is in large part thanks to the presence of Carlos Correa in said farm system and it seems probable that the Phillies would ask for Correa by way of exchange for Hamels.  The Astros, considered a sleeper team for Hamels in a recent Boston Globe article, would be foolish to part with Correa at this stage of the rebuild.  Whether or not Philadelphia can be drawn to a package of lesser-ranked prospects remains to be seen.

    Next: The Astros Need a New Nickname

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