The logical last piece of this series of posts was to talk about what an actual Cole Hamels trade would look like. If you have not read parts 1-3 (Surplus Value, Valuing Prospects, and The Value of Hamels) I strongly advise you to go back and read them because this will be a continuation of the topics discussed in those pieces. I am going to explore the potential outcomes for a Cole Hamels trade looking at surplus value, how fans value Hamels in a trade, what his value is on the field, and how the Phillies value Hamels in a trade.
The teams that definitely have the money and prospects to be in on Hamels are the Red Sox, Cubs, Rangers, and Dodgers. On the fringes the Pirates, Royals, Diamondbacks, and Blue Jays all have the resources to make a deal happen. There are many factors to a Hamels trade, from his salary, to the “surplus value” he will return, to the rarity of such a pitcher being available on the market. All of these factors go to together, and while some may be objective, the end result will be very subjective.
Lets talk about where the surplus value for Hamels falls. If we look at the crude projections from part 3, the average surplus value is ~$26M over 4 years, but $36.6M over 5 years (we see a higher jump because the 5th year is essentially only $18M when we factor the buyout into the 4 year model). On the 4 year model this varies from $71M of surplus value (if Hamels maintains his 5 year bWAR averages over the next 4 years) to -$7 (if he misses a year and we measure by fWAR). Lets start by throwing out the bottom because if it is true there is no trade to be made. So lets start at the top where a team with a feel for surplus value would start negotiations.
If we start at $70M the starting point based on the prospect surplus value table from part 2 would be a hitter in the Top 10 prospects in baseball. As this is more of a range, lets assume that Kris Bryant (Cubs) at the top is worth more than his teammate Addison Russell who is closer to the 11-25 hitter group, but lets put it about the $42M stated. That would mean a deal would need to start with one of these prospects:
Now this still leaves us with about $29M in value, this is a bit outside the 11-25 hitter range, but it would fit against a top pitcher, in this case you are looking at a Henry Owens (Red Sox) or Julio Urias (Dodgers) filling that gap. Or you start to look at a slightly more flawed hitter like a Nomar Mazara (Rangers) or Arismendy Alcantara (Cubs).
Now if we go to the average surplus value we start in the lower tier of hitter in the 26-50 range (upper end of range) or a pitcher in the 11-25 range. This would indicate that a deal starts with a player like Blake Swihart (Boston) or Joc Pederson (Dodgers). This certainly is not a deal the Phillies are saying they will accept at this point, but that may be posturing. The surplus value discussion begins to take trade talks away from the very top prospects in the game, but still into very good to near elite prospects. What surplus value does not handle well is once we get past the first player or two in a trade. After that the model breaks because the sheer number of players drags down any average calculation. The pieces beyond the first few is where scouting (or some combination of scouting, analytics, and other measurements) come into the picture as a team looks to find a player they think will grow into an asset later.
What Fans Want:
Its not just Red Sox fans but it has become clear that Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are off the table in a Hamels deal. However, some writers have speculated that players like Manuel Margot and Deven Marrero would be headliners in a Hamels deal. In general most Red Sox fans have also taken Swihart off the table as well. While the Red Sox system is fairly deep, once a trade starts with just Henry Owens it will be difficult for the Red Sox to compete in trade. Ideally Sox fans would like to see the team use Bradley and Will Middlebrooks as pieces in a Hamels trade. The other speculated piece that has been pushed into discussions in outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
Most Phillies fans I talked to would walk away from a deal without Bogaerts or Betts. Some more rational would take Swihart and Owens in a deal or some other combination of their top 4 prospects getting 3 of the top 4 qualifying players. Either way without the two major league guys fans acknowledge it is more now depth than impact.
At the deadline Amaro reportedly asked for Urias, Pederson, and Seager for Hamels. He was laughed for even asking for one. In general it seems that Dodgers fans are willing to part with one of the three, but the one they would be willing to part with changes on who you talk to. In much the same way Phillies fans want two of the three but change which two they want depending on who you talk to.
Most Phillies fans acknowledge that Bryant isn’t happening. The most common proposals start with two of Baez/Russell/Soler/Alcantara with some people like Kyle Schwarber (who can’t really be traded). The most common targets is the Russell and Soler pairing. Most Cubs fans have not gone past Soler being included, most will not include Russell either. Baez and Starlin Castro seem to be the pieces that could be moveable, but in reality most don’t want to give up anything for Hamels.
Adam Morris at Lone Star Ball speculated on a package based on 1 of Chi Chi Gonzalez/Jake Thompson/Luke Jackson, 1 of Nick Williams/Lewis Brinson, 1 of Corey Knebel/Phil Klein/Spencer Patton/Keone Kela, and Luis Sardina, for Hamels, Domonic Brown, and $10M. Phillies fans are looking for a package starting with Joey Gallo or Jurickson Profar and mostly just focusing on Profar. Outside of that and Nomar Mazara the Rangers prospects don’t combine safety and upside like other teams.
Value on the Field:
If we return to our calculations on the value of Hamels going forward from part 3, we can see that from 2015-2018 the average total WAR for Hamels is 16.6 WAR with a low of 12.2 (fWAR) and a high of 22.2 (bWAR). The #1 prospect in baseball returns an average of 20 WAR over 7 years. Even if we expand that to the top hitting prospects they return an average WAR of about 17.7. Any of these players is also more likely to produce the majority of that value during the last 3-4 years of the 7 years, whereas Hamels projects to provide the most value in 2015 and the downhill from there. If we take a step back and pretend we exist in a perfect world where prospects turned out at their realistic ceilings there are only about 7 pitching prospects who can boast a ceiling of close to Cole Hamels (I have it as Julio Urias, Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Bundy, Archie Bradley, Noah Syndergaard, and Jonathan Gray). Even if they do reach that ceiling it is likely to be a few years into their time in the majors so you are looking at 2-4 years before you even get an ace depending on when they arrive in the majors.
What the Phillies want:
The world. Or pretty close to it. They know that Hamels is the best player other than Tulo who is available in trade or free agency. For a team looking for elite impact from a single player or spot in a rotation then Hamels is the market. Some teams will counter with Max Scherzer and Jon Lester to which the Phillies will point to the fact that there are two of them and they are likely to cost twice as much total money as Cole Hamels. Reportedly the Phillies are asking for 3 top prospects for Hamels of which at least two need to be major league ready and the other close to ready. Depending on the system and definition of top prospects this is a little fuzzy as to what the actual cost would be to a team. Overall the Phillies are looking for players that will be ready and adjusted to the major league level by 2017 and will combine to give them close to the same value as Cole Hamels. It is a whole lot to ask, but the Phillies operate in a realm where budget doesn’t matter and keep Hamels makes competing in 2017 a better bet than the prospects they will receive for him. Additionally, the Phillies will be looking at past trades for ace level pitchers and will see the prospect failures and will look to compensate by acquiring multiple high level prospects to spread the risk.
Some Trade Scenarios:
For each of the teams I am going to give a guess at what the Phillies will start by asking for and then where I think the price is closer to. The likely value takes into account my own evaluation of where I think the value of players are, and I will make it clear it will certainly be different on certain players. Also the goal is to show where the tiers of prospects asked for would be, in many cases the actual prospects can have some amount of swapping based on two players of similar value.
The Phillies get a whole lot less impact than they asked for, but Baez, Edwards, and Johnson give them some talent that could arrive soon. As the Phillies take less of a sure thing on the front end you get a talent like Torres (or Eloy Jimenez or Jefferson Mejia) who has a big ceiling but is eons away.
Phillies Ask For: Joey Gallo, Chi Chi Gonzalez, Jorge Alfaro
Likely Value: Chi Chi Gonzalez, Nomar Mazara, Jorge Alfaro
A Hamels deal with the Rangers is really difficult because all of their pieces were either rushed to the majors or are injured. But there is plenty to like here even if Gallo and Profar are off the table. I am not sure the Phillies stay around if Gallo is off the table, but I would. I really like Mazara who is very advanced for his age, Gonzalez joins Nola as a part of the future rotation, Alfaro is a lottery ticket who could have a big impact behind the plate. In the end if the Rangers aren’t going to give up the top talent they are going to have to strip the next tier of talent to make a trade happen.
There is a very obvious trade set up here between the Blue Jays and Phillies and the first two prospects in the deal are pretty set unless the Phillies like Aaron Sanchez more. Norris could step into the rotation midseason and Pompey could be an upgrade in center field on opening day. Lugo and Castro represent two lottery that would join the next wave prospects that will start 2015 in hi-A.
Phillies Ask For: A deal starting with Betts or Bogaerts
It will be very hard for the Phillies to move off of Swihart at the top of a deal. Owens vs Rodriguez is an interesting debate, but both fit the near MLB ready #3 starter profile. Given their glut of outfielders the Red Sox may be more willing to part with a Bradley than a Manuel Margot. Coyle is an interesting player who can play second and third and is somewhere in that solid regular to second division profile.
Phillies Ask For: Joc Pederson, Julio Urias, Corey Seager
Likely Value: Julio Urias, Joc Pederson, Chris Reed
I am not that high on Pederson which may skew this a bit. Seager has entered into being a real stud prospect and might be off the table here. Overall it is going to be difficult for a Phillies-Dodgers trade to work. The Dodgers really only have the three studs available to trade (Grant Holmes can’t be traded until July). A deal involving 2 of the 3 is going to be hard for the Dodgers to handle and 1 of the 3 doesn’t work because of the lack of a second piece.
The End Result:
Much like how the David Price, Jeff Samardzija, and Jon Lester trades at the deadline were all different, it is likely a Hamels trade will defy convention. The Phillies are not going to move him at basement prices, and right now the industry doesn’t want to pay top dollar. In an ideal world the two sides meet in the middle, but that middle may shift dramatically depending on the free agent contracts signed as well as any trade discussions involving the Reds pitchers, or more recently the Nationals’ Jordan Zimmermann. The price for Hamels should be very high, and the Phillies are right to demand the world for him, now we see what they pay.