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The Houston Astros Should Not Trade for Cole Hamels

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A Further Look into Cole Hamels

Jun 19, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels (35) watches from the dugout against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. The St. Louis Cardinals won 12-4. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Since 2012 when Hamels went 17-6, he is only 22-29, not necessarily indicative of his own ability, as he has obviously played for a team on the skids. According to Baseball-Reference.com, his Wins Above Replacement (WAR) has never been higher than 6.6 (in 2011 and 2014), considered All-Star quality, but less than MVP quality.

Hamels has given up an average of 25 home runs per year over his career, a number that would surely increase with the relatively short left field in Minute Maid Park, and with the center field fence moving in for 2016. (Two Astros lefthanders: Dallas Keuchel‘s average is 20, Brett Oberholtzer, 16). The rest of Hamels’ numbers are reasonable considering the quality of the team for which he now plays.

Statistics can be bent to serve any conclusion, and I’m not going to argue that Hamels’ stats are not good, especially since the Phillies have not had a winning season since 2011. There is no doubt this guy is a quality starting pitcher. Part of my problem with considering a trade for him is that at age 31, he likely has only 3-5 good years left.

Compare that with Astros minor league pitching prospects such as Mark Appel, Joe Musgrove, Mike Hauschild, Michael Feliz, Josh Hader, and others – all who have the potential to play an average of at least ten years in the Major Leagues. That is, they have the time to develop into talents at least as good as Hamels and help to propel the Astros to the postseason – without­ giving up prospects and millions of dollars.

Hamels is signed through 2018 at $23.5 million a season, with a $20 million team option for the 2019 season. Even if the Phillies pick up half of that salary (unlikely, in my opinion), it’s still too high a price to pay for a guy that may or may not make enough of a difference to justify the high price to obtain him.

The Astros have spent the past few seasons gathering minor league prospects, pitchers, and position players – “… staying consistent with our strategy,” said Luhnow in a 2013 article by Brian McTaggart. It is far more cost-effective to develop players the Astros already have than to trade for a high-priced veteran. Not only that, but the Astros are not expected to contend for a playoff spot this year, so why be in a hurry to trade away valuable prospects?

No, the Astros must continue to develop their minor league pitchers – guys that are eight to ten years younger than Hamels and have the potential to give at least that many years to the Astros as they continue to improve and seek post-season action.

I admit that my opinion includes a large dose of gut feeling – that dealing for Hamels is simply a bad idea. I am willing to bet that sometimes GM’s base their actions on their own gut feelings – taking a chance one way or the other, at least in part because their gut and heart tells them it’s the right or wrong move to make.

Besides my gut though, in my view the price is too high and the risk too great. In short, the Astros should not trade for Hamels. They need to hang on to as many of the leading prospects as possible to plan for winning Astros teams for many years to come.

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