You Want Your Ace? Then Pony Up!

By Dan Urda (@DanUrda)

A funny narrative has come into play in the past month as we approach Major League Baseball’s trade deadline; the Phillies HAVE to trade Cole Hamels. If they don’t they are stupid and it is yet another example of General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr.’s incompetence. There is only one small problem with this train of thought: nobody wants to pay fair price.

This is how it seems like negotiations regarding a Hamels trade have gone so far this week:

Playoff contender’s GM: Oh, hey Ruben, we were just checking in on Cole. We are really interested in him and think we could offer a competitive package.

Ruben Amaro Jr.: Well, as you know, we are listening. Let’s start with your top prospect and go from there.

GM: Well, Ruben, we have decided that our top prospect, 17 year old Domingo Abreu Reyes Ortiz, despite only throwing 34 innings as a pro, is completely untouchable. So you are going to have to work around that.

RAJ: Alright, that is fair, I can respect that. I remember how many times teams tried to get Dom Brown from us and I had to tell them the same thing. Alright, so how about one prospect in your organization’s 2-4 range, and then another in your 7-10 range, and then we can talk about throw-ins to complete the deal?

GM: Wellll, actually we like our top prospects a lot. In fact, prospects 1-5 are not touchable. However, number 8 prospect Timmy Washington is completely on the table! Even if his long term projection is as a reliever.

RAJ: Whoa now, we are talking about a legitimate left-handed ace in the middle of his prime here. And not only that, he’s not just a rental; he is controlled for three years at a very affordable price. I think you are low-balling me.

GM: Alright, Ruben, tell you what, you may be right. We will throw in Dirk “The Jerk” McBride who is having an MVP like season in Class A this year!

RAJ: Wait, minor league legend Dirk McBride’s kid is playing pro ball now?

GM: Umm, no, this is actually still the original Dirk McBride. But at 37, he is having a breakthrough year. We think his swing translates to the majors in today’s game more than ever! And he can be yours, along with ol’ Timmy Washington, as long as you eat half of Cole’s salary.

RAJ: Nice try there, I know I have made some doozies in the past, but even I know this is a terrible offer. No deal! (hangs up phone)

GM: (calls MLB reporter Ken Rosenthal with a scoop) OMG we are trying to work with the Phillies but Ruben Amaro is completely unreasonable with what he is asking for!!!!!

Now, I don’t have any inside sources or anything, but I am 99% sure that this exact conversation actually happened. Twice.

I will level with the other side a bit. I understand why a team would be hesitant to give up what they consider to be a blue-chip prospect. But the extent that teams value their own minor leaguers has become downright laughable. I understand the Dodgers saying that Corey Seager is untouchable. I would understand if the Yankees said that ONE of Luis Servino or Aaron Judge needs to remain in the Yankees organization. If a team wants to hold on to their one player they are sure is going to be a star, then great, I respect that. But teams are coming to the Phillies unwilling to trade anybody of value, with lists of “untouchables” that number over a half-dozen. Teams are calling players untouchable who, frankly, project to be average major league regulars, or who are still years away from even sniffing the big leagues at all. The worst part is, the narrative has turned to make the Phillies look like the unreasonable side in negotiations, because, “they HAVE to trade Cole Hamels.”

I read a tweet from a Philadelphia sports fan yesterday (always a dangerous way to begin a sentence) that said something along the lines of “If the Phillies don’t trade Hamels this week, it will show their complete incompetence and I will be done with the team for good.” There may have been a few F-bombs in there, and he may have actually paused to eat a cheesesteak and throw batteries atsomebody while tweeting (because that is what all Philly fans do), but that was the basis of the tweet.

And I could not disagree more. A much greater disaster would be for Amaro to trade Hamels because he feels like he has to, and end up with a package of scrubs. Teams like to try to trick other teams into thinking that a bundle of nobody’s equals value, as Travis Lee, Vincente Padilla, Omar Daal and Nelson Figureoa can attest to. Ruben should settle for nothing less than an elite package headlined by at least one blue-chip prospect at AA or higher.

Let’s say times are good and you buy a watch to celebrate your success: a $15k Rolex. Ten years later, after a few horrible investments, you are about to go broke. It may be ideal for you to sell that Rolex to get some money to start building your wealth for your family again. That doesn’t mean, however, that somebody should offer you $2,500 for it and expect you to oblige just because its your most valuable asset. The media is acting like Ruben Amaro is one of those desperate deadbeats on Pawn Stars, and are getting seemingly angry with the fact that he has resisted (thus far) being ripped off.

As a die-hard Phillies fan, I completely understand and support the disdain for Amaro. After decades of torture, the Phillies fans were finally treated to a dynamic on-field product, and Ruben was given all the assets he needed to keep that in place. He inherited a first-place club that was printing money on a nightly basis, but his inability to recognize either talent or financial value is the main cause for the team’s plummet to dead last in the Majors just four years after being a playoff team. But I will back him up on this one thing; a Hamels trade only needs to happen if the price is right. We don’t want your number 6 prospect, we don’t want your AA closer, and we don’t want your version of Darin Ruf. If you want Cole Hamels, it is going to cost you, and it is going to cost you a lot.

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