Let’s Design a Cole Hamels-to-Boston Trade

Boy is it ever easy to trade away other people’s stuff. From a distance, it’s easy to recognize when a guy has to go, as things are uncomplicated by memories and emotions. It sucks the Philadelphia Phillies just about have to trade Cole Hamels. He’s great, and he’s been there forever, through some really good times, and people have developed an attachment to him. Even the Phillies have officially recognized the era is over, but moving Hamels would be a painful kind of closure. The front office doesn’t want to deal Hamels for younger, unfamiliar talent. But it has to happen. As popular as Hamels is, from an objective standpoint, he’s not getting better. And he’d mean a lot more to a team with a prayer of winning something over the next couple years.

So the Phillies ought to be looking to cash in on Hamels. More seriously than they did around the deadline, I mean. The Phillies are poised to gut what there is to gut, and Hamels is a front-line starter who’d hit a market thirsty for front-line starters. Probably the most popular rumor so far: Hamels leaving the Phillies for the Boston Red Sox, in exchange for a package that involved young players. Clearly, nothing has yet been agreed to, but clearly, there will be some more negotiations. So what could we conceivably see as a trade? Let’s design a Red Sox move for Cole Hamels.

This is the way Hamels’ contract is structured:

  • 2015: $22.5 million
  • 2016: $22.5 million
  • 2017: $22.5 million
  • 2018: $22.5 million
  • 2019: $20 million club option, $6 million buyout

I’m going to make an assumption in this post: Hamels has trade protection against the Red Sox. The assumption is that, in order to waive that, Hamels would need the option picked up. So I’m going to treat his contract as $110 million over five years. It’s less than what Jon Lester is looking for. It’s less than what Max Scherzer is looking for. Not that Hamels is quite up there with Lester or Scherzer.

A huge part of this, obviously, is evaluating what Hamels is today. Whether you like arguments based on contract surplus value, that’s the framework by which moves get made, even if unintentionally. And to figure out Hamels’ surplus value, we need to take a guess at how good he is — and how good he will be. Over the past three years, he’s averaged 4.1 WAR. He’s averaged 4.7 RA9-WAR. He turns 31 a couple days after Christmas. One factor that might be significant: Hamels’ quality of opposition. According to Baseball Prospectus, in 2013, Hamels’ opponents had the second-lowest combined OPS out of all pitchers with at least 100 innings. In 2014, Hamels’ opponents were seventh-lowest, out of 144. So there should probably be some kind of adjustment. Against a more average slate of opponents, it stands to reason Hamels would’ve done a little worse.

But I’ve decided to cover multiple bases. Is Hamels a 4.5-win pitcher? Is he a 4-win pitcher? A 3.5? I’ll show you the numbers for each, subtracting half a win for each future season. I’m also showing numbers starting with $7 million/WAR, and $6 million/WAR. Those would be estimates of current market rates, and I increased them 5% in each future season. The table should be simple enough: Hamels’ starting value, the starting market rate of a win and the surplus value of Hamels’ contract.

2015 Value $m/WAR Surplus Value ($m)
4.5 7.0 23.5
4.5 6.0 4.4
4.0 7.0 4.2
4.0 6.0 -12.2
3.5 7.0 -15.2
3.5 6.0 -28.7

By the most generous estimates in there, Hamels’ surplus value would be $23.5 million. But then you’ve got $4.4 million and $4.2 million and some numbers below zero. Maybe the lowest seems far-fetched, but one could argue the same about the highest, so you can see why the Phillies have so far failed to turn Hamels into a massive prospect bounty. No one believes he’d be worth it. Everyone believes Hamels is good. It’s just he’s already getting paid to be good, for a while.

That’s a key difference between a hypothetical Hamels trade and the actual James Shields trade. Hamels now and Shields then are similarly talented starting pitchers, at similar ages. But Shields earned just $9 million in 2013, and $13.5 million in 2014. He had surplus value on top of that, and there was no long-term commitment to tie up the Royals’ future payrolls. There was also more going on in the trade, but over the two-year period, Shields would have about $20 million more surplus value than Hamels, in current money, and Hamels has those extra expensive years at the back.

So let’s think about this. There are alternatives to trading for Cole Hamels. But maybe there’s some value in getting him, specifically, since the alternatives aren’t limitless. Let’s be nice to Hamels and the Phillies and estimate his real surplus contract value between $10 million and $20 million. It’s below the highest estimate in the table, but above the average. What’s the prospect-return equivalent of $10 million to $20 million?

We can’t actually know, but this is helpful and this is helpful. Those work as some convenient guides. We can rule some guys out right away. Xander Bogaerts is off limits. Mookie Betts, too. Also Christian Vazquez, probably, since he’s already broken in. Blake Swihart isn’t moving — he’s worth somewhere between $35 million and $50 million. Henry Owens seems like he’s worth right around $20 million to $30 million. That’s close, but it’s a little steep. Already, I’m trying to be generous.

Baseball America has Eduardo Rodriguez ranked fourth in the Red Sox’s system. Kiley put him second, a hair north of Owens, because Rodriguez flashed better stuff after arriving from Baltimore. Rodriguez might work as a primary piece, depending on where you put him relative to Owens. He’s in the neighborhood.

So there’s an argument for Rodriguez for Hamels, straight-up. If the Phillies want some quantity on top of that, they can take some lower-level, toolsy sorts. With Rodriguez in there, though, the Phillies can’t get too greedy because Rodriguez might be more than enough on his own.

Move on from Rodriguez. Let’s stay curious. Fifth on Kiley’s list: Manuel Margot. He’s seventh, by BA, right behind Rafael Devers. Kiley has Devers sixth, too. These guys should be pushing for inclusion at the bottom of a top-100, so then they’d be valued right around $10 million to $20 million each. One is 20 and one is 18, so there’s a lot of work left to do, but the ceilings are extraordinary. So here’s another possibility: Hamels for Margot or Hamels for Devers. Each is good enough to be a centerpiece. As before, the Phillies might ask for another piece or two in addition, of far lower value.

Let’s say, instead of focusing on one major prospect, the Phillies wanted a couple pretty good prospects. This leads us to Garin Cecchini and Brian Johnson. BA has them 10th and fifth; Kiley has them seventh and eighth. Cecchini, a year ago, was ranked 74th overall by BA, but then he had an unremarkable year in Triple-A. Johnson, meanwhile, is unexciting, but Kiley describes him as just about big-league ready. Now I’m really just making educated guesses, but Cecchini’s value might be around $8 million to $16 million. Johnson should be at $5 million to $15 million, or so. He could be less than that, in which case Cecchini and Johnson could be combined. Alternatively, you fold in Matt Barnes, who’s a worse prospect than Johnson but who has better raw stuff. Barnes and Johnson would match the estimated Hamels value, more or less. Any combination of two of these three should be enough to satisfy the Phillies, based on the Hamels analysis.

There’s one thing the Phillies can do to improve their haul: cover some of Hamels’ remaining salary. They’re not exactly hard up for money, and they’re unlikely to need all their payroll space at least in the next few years anyway, as they rebuild. Let’s say the Phillies are focused on Henry Owens. Straight-up, that would be a bit steep for the Red Sox, but roughly $10 million might even it out. If they wanted Rodriguez, maybe $5 million does it. If the Phillies wanted Margot and Devers, they’d essentially buy one of them out, at between $10 million and $20 million. The more they chip in, the more they get, because every reduction in how much the Red Sox owe Hamels increases his total surplus value.

That’s about how this ought to go, analytically speaking. Ruben Amaro needs to back off his reported demands. No one’s going to floor him with a prospect package unless the Phillies cover a substantial amount of Hamels’ future money. The above was also somewhat generous to Hamels and to the Phillies, so if the consensus evaluation is that Hamels is a little worse, the cost only goes down (for the team getting Hamels). Which should make the Phillies more willing to throw in money since prospects are more important to them than money right now. This is, to some extent, an opportunity for them to buy a decent prospect or three. The Red Sox have plenty of prospects to offer. There’s a match here, if the Phillies want it to happen.

We hoped you liked reading Let’s Design a Cole Hamels-to-Boston Trade by Jeff Sullivan!

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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Nik
Guest
Nik

Ah, the old and invalid surplus value table. I knew I’d find one here. Hamels isnt getting moved for anywhere near this meager return.

The Ancient Mariner
Guest
The Ancient Mariner

Just asserting it’s invalid is meaningless. If you believe it to be invalid, offer an argument with evidence.

Jake is da Bomb
Guest

no, it’s invalid because it has nothing at all to do with market forces (supply and demand) which is what dictates how players get valued. If the Sox want to obtain a TOR SPer, they will pay what it takes to get one or more. If they value the shorter term of the Hamels contract as much as they would seem to, then they will most likely prefer to deal prospects (not all of which will have opportunities anyway) than to overpay the available FAs.

Matt
Member
Matt

Yeah the question becomes: do you want to pay Hamels a similar amount of money AND some prospects OR do you just wanna overpay for similar FA’s? I think Sullivan does a pretty good job of considering this tradeoff in the analysis. I suppose it’s possible that the Phillies would pay some of the contract to upgrade the quality of prospect they get in return, but I haven’t seen any indication that they are willing to do that.

There’s a reason why teams who are willing to pull the trigger on this type of deal (Rays) are competitive, while the teams who aren’t (Phillies) remain a laughing stock.

Nik
Guest
Nik

Yeah – Phillies and their 5 straight divisions and a WS. Total laughing stock. Cuz you know the Rays never had a rebuild or anything.

arc
Guest
arc

That doesn’t invalidate it any more than teams signing relievers to horrible contracts invalidates an analysis demonstrating that relievers aren’t worth that much.

Jake is da Bomb
Guest

“laughing stock”??? you’re talking about the team that averaged 95 wins from 2007 – 2011 and 1st place those 5 straight years. just about every other team would kill to have a run like that.

Matt
Member
Matt

LOL keep clinging to those titles – Amaro appreciates your support as he searches for the next RBI king to hand out $200 million to . . .

Jake is da Bomb
Guest

ok, so Boston never gave out a bad contract..?

DNA+
Guest
DNA+

Didn’t the “laughingstock” stock team beat the “competitive” team in the “competitive” team’s only ever WS appearance? …needing only five games to do it.

Slothrop
Guest
Slothrop

“Didn’t the “laughingstock” stock team beat the “competitive” team in the “competitive” team’s only ever WS appearance? …needing only five games to do it.”

Now *there’s* a persuasive argument to make a bad trade with a GM who has backed himself into a corner and rather than sensibly resolve his situation just doubled down on what got him there in the first place.

DNA+
Guest
DNA+

Did you really read that as an argument “to make a bad trade with a GM who has backed himself into a corner and rather than sensibly resolve his situation just doubled down on what got him there in the first place.”?!

Matt
Member
Matt

Sure, the Red Sox have given out bad contracts. Has Amaro ever given out a GOOD one?

I hear Delmon Young is available to man LF for the Phils next year – then they can have him and French together finally – a dream come true!

Jake is da Bomb
Guest

typical anger among certain posters here for some reason…

Matt
Member
Matt

haha who’s angry? What, Phillie fans can’t take it as well as they dish it out?

John
Guest
John

LOL, Hamels isn’t much of a ‘shorter term deal’

Hamels is owed 110 through 5 years
Lester will maked 140 through 6 years

Not much of a differernce. Definetly not worth any blue chips

Ryan
Member
Ryan

Matt, log off.

Free_AEC
Guest

Give me the names of prospects traded for by selling a Cole Hamels stud who went on to form a core on a playoff team.

Go back as far as you want.

JOHN MIDDLETON

SOLD

CURT SCHILLING -Three Rings

HUNTER PENCE – Two Rings

SCOTT ROLEN – One Ring

SHANE VICTORINO -One Ring

BOBBY ABREU

CLIFF LEE

for

VICENTE PADILLA

That’s SEVEN Rings in 14 years while the Phillies have won two World Series in 125 years.

You win by BUYING players. I see where our money is going. I see the beach houses and castles going up.

How much is your house worth? Can you conceive of owning a “house” so huge and valuable that the yearly property taxes exceed $400,000?

Our Phillies owners can.

That is what we have been paying for.

Start planning for Clearwater. All of your favorite Camden Riversharks will be there.

_

Highlight and Google: John Powers Middleton Felony Fraud

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Don Von Handburger
Guest
Don Von Handburger

I agree. The Sox would do any of these suggested deals in a heartbeat.

The Ancient Mariner
Guest
The Ancient Mariner

And you know this because . . . ?

–No, wait, let me guess: you work for the NSA.

Don Von Handburger
Guest
Don Von Handburger

Common sense.

Vic Romano
Guest
Vic Romano

If only people realized that trades in real baseball aren’t like trades in fantasy baseball, we’d see like silly comments like yours.

Mike Fratello's Perm
Guest
Mike Fratello's Perm

“XXXX isn’t getting moved for anywhere near this meager return.”

This certainly has been the Phillies mantra, and meanwhile the players just get OLDER and OLDER.

RAJ is still waiting for the Orioles to offer up Brian Matusz, top ten prospect, in their offer for Ryan Howard, proven run producer.

Nik
Guest
Nik

Here is the thing, Hamels does NOT need to be traded. He’ll help attendance and will still be good enough in 3 years when the Phillies can realistically compete again. Why the hell would the Phillies trade him for peanuts? The only way he’s moved is if the prospects actually move the needle.

Mike Fratello's Perm
Guest
Mike Fratello's Perm

“He’ll help attendance and will still be good enough in 3 years when the Phillies can realistically compete again.”

The first part certainly needs proving, and the second part is pretty optimistic considering the team is still on the way down. I guess they could speed up the process by moving some of their decent players for prospects…oh wait.

Nik
Guest
Nik

That’s the idea. Get actual prospects, not the poo-poo platter suggested in this article.

Tallman
Guest
Tallman

The poo-poo platter is a nice dish, thank you very much.

Vic Romano
Guest
Vic Romano

Wait….you think the Phillies can realistically compete in 3 years?

Allow me to lol.

bobbybonilla
Guest
bobbybonilla

Hes not worth that much which is sad because other than maybe Utley and Lee, he is the most valuable thing the Phillies have.

Such a horrible team. I’d rather be an Astros fan at this point.

Don’t bother regurgitating your 5 years, 1 WS title crap either. I’m a Yankees fan, that doesn’t mean anything to me. It almost one of those “oh, thats cute… you got one!” comments. If you want to keep reliving the past go nuts but your future is looking very bleak.

bleh
Guest
bleh

>and will still be good enough in 3 years

baesd on what, wishful thinking?

Dave Cornutt
Guest
Dave Cornutt

The point being missed is what the Phillies are competing with. For about the same AAV as Hamels’ contract, the Red Sox could sign James Shields, and all it would cost them (besides the money) is a second-round draft pick. Given that, why surrender a bunch of prospects to acquire Hamels? And I think any other team that sees themselves as contenders in 2015 will look at it similarly. And, of course, rebuilding teams have no motivation to spend that kind of money on an aging player.

The possiblem market is pretty much limited to the Yankees, the Red Sox, and maybe the Blue Jays. Those are the only teams that have both the money to pay Hamels and the immediate need for a front-line starter. The Phillies only have three or four possible teams to negotiate with. And those teams have other options, both in the free agent market and in possible trades with other teams.

KCDaveInLA
Guest
KCDaveInLA

“Don’t bother regurgitating your 5 years, 1 WS title crap either. I’m a Yankees fan, that doesn’t mean anything to me. It almost one of those “oh, thats cute… you got one!” comments.”

It is true then – Yankees fans have no souls.

Joe McMahon
Guest
Joe McMahon

First of all, the Phillies will not be competitive in three years. Second of all, Hamels won’t be incredibly helpful in 3 years. He probably has 2 great years left, followed by 2-3 decent years that will be worth less than what he’s being paid. 3 years from now, Hamels will be a liability, not an asset.

Dovif
Guest
Dovif

Mil

3 years when Howard Rollins utley and Ruiz all retired. Who man 1b2b3b and c

Cybermetrics guy
Guest
Cybermetrics guy

Help attendance in what form or fashion? Surely you can’t mean the same one that has seen a steep decline in season ticket holder renewals over the past 3-seasons?

Matt P
Guest
Matt P

Serious question. What did you think of the Price trade? Do you think that the Rays really loved Franklin and/or Smyly or do you think that the money owed to Price had an impact on the return?

Nik
Guest
Nik

Price was only under control one more year and Rays would not be able to resign him. Phillies aren’t under the gun to make a trade.

Joshua_C
Guest
Joshua_C

The Rays also might have been able to benefit from Price pitching for them in 2015, while the Phillies are unlikely to be good enough to benefit much from Hamels in the next couple years.

That said, a Price-level package for Hamels would be a major coup for the Phillies. But it’s not happening.

Cliff Lee
Guest
Cliff Lee

You tell em Nik. Never move a pitcher until the last possible minute.

Dovif
Guest

Don’t worry phillie will get the chance to move him in the last year of his contract

Free_AEC
Guest

Cliff Lee

Traded for eleven prospects total in three trades.

All of those prospects suck balls.

Three trades=ZILCH

Teams only trade garbage so you never trade your stud players. You never rebuild when you’re a big market team. You buy players.

_

Highlight and Google: .John Powers Middleton Felony Fraud.

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Happy Fun Ball
Guest
Happy Fun Ball

There are top pitchers available for straight cash. Lester is one, Scherzer, etc…

Hamels, at $110M is a discount. $22.5M is a slight bargain on the $/yr, but at only 5 years in length there is less long term risk than a Scherzer-type pitcher who is probably going to get 7+ years. Add it up and the net price difference is something in the neighborhood of $50M.

So that’s what the Phillies should be looking for in prospects. About $50M worth. Not $10M.

Vic Romano
Guest
Vic Romano

“Hamels, at $110M is a discount.”

I don’t think you know what the word ‘discount’ means.

Happy Fun Ball
Guest
Happy Fun Ball

The cost for Scherzer or Lester will be significantly higher than $110M. Ergo, Hamels is a discount.

Mike Fratello's Perm
Guest
Mike Fratello's Perm

You can’t simply subtract $110 million from whatever Scherzer or Lester gets and call that surplus value. Scherzer/Lester will pitch additional years for that extra money, and will be projected to be lesser (but still valuable) pitchers during those years. So while you might pay them an extra $50 million to only give you $35 million worth of value, that’s STILL $35 million worth of value.

So Cole Hamels surplus value for reduced contract length is the difference in contract price MINUS whatever the others could reasonably be projected to give in those years.

Vic Romano
Guest
Vic Romano

Thanks for confirming that you don’t know what ‘discount’ means. At least that bit is cleared up now.

Happy Fun Ball
Guest
Happy Fun Ball

But it’s not automatic value. It is risk. Pitchers get hurt all the time. Anything 5+ years out is a crap shoot. You can’t just apply a gradual aging curve to a player’s WAR and a constant inflation factor to payroll and say “THIS IS VALUE!”. It isn’t. It’s risk, and the further out your project it, the more risk it is. Players take higher total, lower AAV deals all.the.time. because they want the security or a payday today. For the same reason, $110/5yr is a discount over $200/8yr because there’s $0 of commitment after year 5. Who the hell knows what the pitching landscape is going to look like in 2019? It is entirely likely that there will be better options out there for the BoSox than a 35 year old $25M Lester or Scherzer.

Happy Fun Ball
Guest
Happy Fun Ball

Scherzer is going to get a 7 or 8 year deal because that’s what HE wants. If it was up to the teams, and they were able to collude, I doubt you’d ever see a deal longer than 2 or 3 years. Except possibly in the case of a young and very cheap “can’t miss” guy like the Longoria deal. Any team that signs Scherzer for 8 years is hoping that the first 3 years earn value, because they know the last 3 are going to probably suck. Since Hamel’s deal is only for 5 years, the projections are safer. There will (hopefully) be fewer drag years and they won’t be as bad.

Hence DISCOUNT.

Jason
Guest
Jason

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

williams .482
Member
Member
williams .482

Except, Sherzer and Lester are better, and those extra years offer some additional production as well as additional cost. The price difference may be in the $50M range, but the valu difference is going to be much smaller.

nik
Guest
nik

Except they arent.

a eskpert
Guest
a eskpert

They are better, they put up similar defense independent numbers in the AL to what Hamels has put up in the NL.

nik
Guest
nik

Except they arent. By xFIP Hamels is a better pitcher than both. You know xFIP – which is league and park adjusted

a eskpert
Guest
a eskpert

xfip- is league and park adjusted, xfip isn’t.

Jay29
Member
Jay29

http://www.fangraphs.com/library/pitching/xfip/

Things to Remember:

? xFIP is not park or league adjusted. We carry a park and league adjusted version called xFIP-, found in the “Advanced” tab of the leaderboards and player pages.

John
Guest
John

Hamels is essentally worth whats hes being paid 5/110

This is EXACTLY what Hamels would net in a trade

Rich
Guest
Rich

The Red Sox aren’t willing to give up premier prospects for Hamels. They know Amaro is under pressure and a lot of people in Philly want him iut and the Red Sox have more than enough talent and money available. The Sox stand is very simple, we are interested in Hamel on our terms not yours and we can wait as long as we want.