Apparently, the Phillies have ramped up their bid to keep Cole Hamels. That’s the word from Jayson Stark of ESPN, anyway.
[C]lubs that have been speaking with the Phillies say the team has essentially put trade talks on hold and have been much more focused on signing the 28-year-old left-hander than on dealing him before the deadline.
“They want to sign him, and that’s their priority,” said an official of one club who spoke with the Phillies’ brass this week. “They’re really not even entertaining (trade) offers at this point.”
It gets better: Apparently, too, the Phillies aren’t as squeamish about landing Hamels on a six-year contract, as opposed to all the previous months where the length of a possible Hamels deal was the top point of contention. “The Phillies initially offered Hamels a four-year extension last offseason,” Stark writes, “but they came to the conclusion they had no alternative but to soften that stance as Hamels draws closer to becoming a free agent this fall.”
Teams thought to be interested in dealing for Hamels by the non-waiver deadline are said to have included the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Texas Rangers, and the Los Angeles Angels. The Phillies were said to have scouts prowling the farms of those teams preparing for a deal, but Stark cites one or more official as saying the only thing the Phillies are interested in now is securing Hamels.
If so, since they’re approaching or may have passed the luxury tax threshold, the Phillies had better be right when they seem to say they can sign Hamels to a six-year deal while staying under next year’s threshold and past it. And, as Stark notes, the way to secure that would be to unload one or more of their talented but aging veterans. In fact, he adds, further buttressing the speculation of some observers, teams thought to be looking for a Hamels deal might actually be more interested in dealing for Shane Victorino (OF), Joe Blanton (p), Placido Polanco (IF), and even Jimmy Rollins (SS).
Hamels’ likely dollars were influenced inadvertently by the Phillies themselves when they bagged Cliff Lee after the 2010 season with that five-year/$120 million deal, but the San Francisco Giants’ Matt Cain deal (April: six years, $127.5 million) sure helped, too.
The Angels were being thought of as one very attractive trading partner in any Hamels trade. And why not? Hamels is native to San Diego and, if he must move on, might be more amenable to pitching close to his hometown. Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson, himself native to Newport Beach, is said to have spent some one-on-one time with Hamels at the All-Star Game and possibly put a bug in Hamels’ ear about the advantages of pitching for the contending Angels this year and beyond.
Other reports indicated that if the Rangers didn’t or couldn’t bring off a Hamels deal before the deadline, they might turn their sights toward Milwaukee’s Zack Greinke or former Ranger/incumbent Phillie Lee.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, are thought elsewhere to have closer eyes for Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster.
Hamels thus far is having a very decent season, through this writing: a .733 winning percentage, a 3.07 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP (the figure by which he led the National League in 2008), a 4.17 K/BB ratio, and 1.7 WAR.
MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE JUNGLE . . .
RYAN’S HOPE—Did I say the Dodgers “are thought elsewhere to have closer eyes for . . . Ryan Dempster?” Amend that: a couple of published reports say the Dodgers have put a deal on the table to obtain the righthander who’s in the midst of a nifty 33-inning runless streak and with a major league-leading 1.86 ERA. According to the same reports, though, it isn’t known whether the Dodgers will include Zach Lee, considered their top pitching prospect on the farm, and the Cubs haven’t been shy about saying they’re looking for young arms especially.
R.A.’S DOPE—Leave it to R.A. Dickey to get his groove back, after four starts with one win and three no-decisions, and help the New York Mets get out of Washington with at least one win after losing back-to-back one-run games largely because of their shaky bullpen. It left Dickey the National League’s first 13-game winner. This time, the pen didn’t waste serious firepower from David Wright (two bombs: a two-run shot in the first, a three-run thump in the fourth) and Ike Davis (a leadoff bomb off Gio Gonzalez in the second; an RBI single in the third). The Nats made a feeble bid in the ninth when Roger Bernadina pushed home Mark DeRosa by beating out an infield hit, but Bobby Parnell bagged Sandy Leon—a catcher freshly called up from AA, who had his first major league hit (a leadoff single) in the seventh. The win pulled the Mets back to within seven games of the first-place Nats, who held a 3 1/2 game lead over the Atlanta Braves, who spent their afternoon beating the Giants.
GIVE HIM ENOUGH ROPE—That’s David Price becoming the American League’s first 13-game winner Thursday, shutting out the Cleveland Indians on two hits in seven innings before the pen finished what he started and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Tribe, 6-0. Price credited two things: his fastball (“[It’s] gotten better; I have more velocity; it’s consistent throughout the game”) and his mates. (“It’s a very comfortable feeling when you have the lead out there, even if it’s one. They’ve done a very good job for me this year of scoring runs early and I appreciate it.”) The loss left Cleveland starter Ubaldo Jimenez at 8-9, Jimenez roughed up for a three-way five spot: five runs surrendered, five punchouts, but five walks.