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Phillies trade rumors through July 1
by Scott Butler 7/1/15

Allen Iverson Bud Selig

MLB Trade Rumors is a site which describes themselves as "a clearinghouse for relevant, legitimate baseball rumors." Each week at Phils Baseball, we grab their latest Phillies rumors and put them all together in one weekly post:

Here are the latest Phillies rumors:

July 1

--No posts

June 30

Pete Mackanin To Manage Phillies For Rest Of Season

Pete Mackanin will manage the Phillies for the remainder of the 2015 season, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. announced today. Mackanin, formerly Ryne Sandberg’s third base coach, has been managing the team since Sandberg’s sudden resignation last week. The Phillies also announced that Jorge Velandia, the team’s assistant minor league field coordinator, will join the Major League staff as an assistant coach.

The 63-year-old Mackanin had a nine-year career as a Major Leaguer and is now, strangely, in the midst of his third stint as a team’s interim manager following a midseason firing/resignation. Mackanin was the Pirates’ interim manager for the final month of the 2005 season after Lloyd McClendon was fired, and he served as a temporary skipper for the Reds in 2007 after Jerry Narron was dismissed. Mackanin has also served as a manager in the minor leagues, and he’s occupied various Major League coaching roles over parts of 13 Major League seasons (including a stint as the team’s bench coach). Earlier today, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted that he got the sense the Phillies simply needed to make sure that Mackanin was comfortable managing the club for the rest of the year.

The Phillies yesterday announced the hiring of Andy MacPhail as the successor to president Pat Gillick, adding that MacPhail’s title of president would become official following the season when Gillick retires. It stands to reason that MacPhail will oversee the hiring of a permanent manager, although it’s certainly possible that Mackanin would be in the mix for that position if he desires. He’s been with the Phillies organization since 2009.

June 29

NL East Notes: Phillies

--The Phillies‘ front office announcement today also revealed something about the club’s ownership situation, Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. John Middleton — who owns the single largest stake in the club (48%) — was front and center during today’s press conference, putting a new face on the organization. “We spent $18 million buying our initial interest in this team,” Middleton explained. “We’re a long way from $18 million now, so you have to take a greater role in the team. You have to.”

--Phillies president-to-be Andy MacPhail emphasized that he is prepared to infuse analytics into the organization’s decisionmaking, as Nick Suss of MLB.com reports. With Middleton noting the importance of updating the club’s use of data, including a customized system that the club expects to bring on line in September, MacPhail indicated that his aim is to harness statistical analysis with a focus on the people performing and utilizing it. “The more experience you have with it and the more you get a better sense of which formulas really are predictors of performance and which ones aren’t, it’s something that knowledge accrues over time,” MacPhail said. “But I think it’s absolutely essential that you marry that with the best human intelligence you can. Bodies change. Weaknesses get exposed and they get exploited. People make adjustments. So you need to look at every single facet that is possible when you’re making player evaluations.”

Phillies Hire Andy MacPhail As Pat Gillick’s Successor

5:15pm: Gillick tells ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (links to Twitter) that Amaro will retain full authority at least through the end of the season. “Ruben is going to be the GM through the end of the season,” said Gillick. “He’s going to make any of the deals that we make. He still has that authority. That’s his job — to change personnel. That’s not going to change.”

1:38pm: The Phillies announced that they have hired MacPhail, who will serve as a special assistant to Gillick for the remainder of the season before assuming the role of president at the end of the year. The team’s official statement is as follows:

“The Phillies announced today the hiring of Andy MacPhail to succeed Pat Gillick as president of the club following Gillick’s retirement shortly after the season ends. As president, MacPhail will oversee the entire organization, both its business and baseball operations. For the remainder of the season, MacPhail will serve as a special assistant to Gillick, during which time he will work closely with Gillick and chief operating officer Michael Stiles to become acclimated with the club’s operations and its personnel.”

Phillies principal owner John Middleton praised MacPhail’s blend of traditional baseball acumen and his prowess with analytics in a statement issued with today’s press release:

“Andy brings an uncommon blend of old school experience and new age thinking. … In 1986, Andy was the youngest GM in the history of Major League Baseball when he served in that role for the Twins. The following year, he became the youngest GM to win a World Series title. When the Orioles hired him eight years ago, Andy became the first president of baseball operations in Major League Baseball. During his tenure in Baltimore, he greatly expanded the use of statistical analysis in player evaluations. That’s the new age thinking.”

10:16am: The Phillies have called a press conference at 2:30pm ET to “announce new Phillies leadership.” As MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki indicates, the presser will announce the widely expected hiring of Andy MacPhail to head the team’s baseball operations department (Twitter links). However, he adds that no new manager will be named this afternoon, and Ruben Amaro will remain in the GM’s chair, for now.

Last week, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that MacPhail would be hired within the week to fill a role similar to that of interim president Pat Gillick. Reports of the club’s interest in MacPhail date back to mid-June, when CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury first broke the news.

By bringing MacPhail on board, the Phillies will hire an executive with experience in leading three franchises. MacPhail was the Twins’ GM during the team’s 1987 and 1991 World Series victories. He served as the Cubs’ president for more than a decade from the mid-90s into the mid-2000s, including the team’s 1998 and 2003 postseason berths. MacPhail moved from Chicago to Baltimore, where he served as president of baseball operations and helped lay the foundation for the perennial contender that is now in place in Baltimore. MacPhail acquired Adam Jones and Chris Tillman in a lopsided trade that sent Erik Bedard to Seattle, and he also acquired Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter from the Rangers in exchange for Koji UeharaJ.J. Hardy‘s presence in Baltimore is also MacPhail’s doing; he acquired the shortstop from the Twins (alongside the remaining money on Brendan Harris‘ contract) in exchange for relievers Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson.

By coming on board with more than a month until the trade deadline, MacPhail will be in position to do some evaluation and weigh in on what is expected to be a franchise-altering month for the Phillies. Names like Aaron HarangJonathan Papelbon and Ben Revere could all find themselves traded within the month, but the most impactful expected move, is of course, a potential trade of Cole Hamels. The longtime Phillies ace is the type of elite arm that can command a package significant enough to single-handedly reshape the team’s future, and the veteran executive will now be in place to have some input on that critical trade.

Additionally, MacPhail will be able to evaluate internal matters, including Amaro’s position with the team and, potentially, the hiring of a new manager to oversee the club in the wake of Ryne Sandberg’s resignation.

June 28

Quick Hits: Joseph

Phillies prospect Tommy Joseph is being shifted from catcher to first base, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury reports.  Multiple concussions and a wrist injury limited Joseph to just 63 total games in 2013-14, and after suffering another concussion this season, the decision was made to end Joseph’s catching career for the sake of his health.  The Giants drafted Joseph in the second round of the 2009 draft and he came to Philadelphia as part of the Hunter Pence trade package.

Astros Targeting Cueto Over Hamels

In recent weeks, the Astros have been connected to Phillies ace Cole Hamels, but it doesn’t sound as though he’s their top pitching target.  Instead, it’s Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto that is atop Houston’s wish list, according to sources who spoke with Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle.

One of the main reasons for their preference of Cueto over Hamels is that the Astros are seeking out a 2015 rental or possibly someone whose contract runs for one more year.  With a hefty contract that runs through 2018, Hamels simply doesn’t fit the bill.  Cueto, meanwhile, is only owed the prorated portion of his 2015 salary of $10MM, which is a little over $5MM the rest of the way.  Hamels, meanwhile, is set to earn the balance of his $22.5MM salary for the remainder of this season, $22.5MM in the next three seasons, and a $20MM option/$6MM buyout that can vest with good health and a certain number of innings pitched.

For his part, Hamels recently indicated that he would be “open-minded” to being traded to any team, including the Astros.  Instead, it sounds like Houston has their attention focused on the Reds’ pitching, where other suitors include the Dodgers, Yankees, and Blue Jays, a source tells Drellich.  All in all, Drellich hears that the Phillies have been pumping up the perception of the Astros’ interest as negotiating leverage in talks about Hamels.

The Astros are casting a wide net in their effort to add a solid starter to their rotation to go with Dallas KeuchelCollin McHughVincent Velasquez, and Lance McCullers.  In addition to Cueto and Mike Leake, the Astros are doing their homework on A’s lefty Scott Kazmir, Brewers right-handers Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse, and White Sox right-hander Jeff Samardzija.

Cafardo On Cueto, Hamels

--The Astros are a team to watch in July as they could get very aggressive in their pursuit of a starter.  Cafardo hears that the Astros have been evaluating Reds pitchers Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake quite a bit.  Cole Hamels obviously stands as one of the biggest prizes out there, but Cafardo feels he likely wouldn’t sign off on a trade to Houston.  Over the weekend, Hamels indicated that he would be “open-minded” to being traded to any team.

--The Phillies would like to sell off their pieces little by little rather than make a ton of deals right at the deadline.  However, Cafardo hears that teams aren’t coming to the table with actual offers yet, leaving the Phillies frustrated.

June 27

Cole Hamels Would Consider Trade To Any Team

Phillies ace Cole Hamels is “open-minded” to being traded to any team, including the Blue Jays and Astros, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes. “I have not been approached,” says Hamels. “When I’m approached, then I can make a decision and provide an answer about a team. But I’m open-minded on everybody and everything.”

Hamels’ contract allows him to block trades to all teams except the Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Mets, Nationals, Padres, Rangers, and Yankees. Previous reports had suggested he would block trades to the Blue Jays and Astros if given the chance, but that apparently isn’t the case.

Hamels adds that he didn’t foresee the Astros’ strong performance this year when he failed to mark them for inclusion on his list of approved teams. “They just didn’t make the nine-team list,” he says. “When I made the list in October –- who knew?

The Phillies owe Hamels about $86MM guaranteed through 2018, including a $6MM buyout on his vesting/club option for 2019. As Salisbury notes, the absence of certain teams (such as the Red Sox, although it now appears less likely that the Red Sox would acquire him after their underwhelming start) from Hamels’ approved-trade list could give him leverage to ask the team acquiring him to pick up his option. Hamels has lately been connected to the Yankees and Rangers as well as the Blue Jays.

East Notes: Phillies

Ryne Sandberg’s sudden resignation raises questions about who, exactly, is charge of the PhilliesDavid Murphy of the Daily News writes. Team president Pat Gillick said “I can’t really comment on that” yesterday in response to a question about who would be in charge of hiring the next Phillies manager. The team will reportedly hire Andy MacPhail for a front-office position, but it’s unclear whether that’s Gillick’s idea or ownership’s, and even if it’s the latter, it’s not clear who speaks for the ownership. Here’s more from the East divisions.

June 26

Rosenthal’s Latest: Phillies

--Nobody would suggest that the Phillies are anything but sellers, but the club seems to be in something of a “holding pattern” in discussing transactions while it waits to finalize its reported front office moves, Rosenthal further reports on Twitter. That is understandable, given that Andy MacPhail is expected to be installed in a critical oversight role in short order. He’ll presumably desire a chance to evaluate the situation and have a role in any significant decisions.

--Some in the game aren’t sure whether MacPhail is the right executive to bring the Phillies up to speed with the analytical developments in the game, Rosenthal writes. But Rosenthal says that he believes that the organization and MacPhail are well aware of the need to modernize and will make that a priority.

Ryne Sandberg Resigns As Phillies Manager

Ryne Sandberg has resigned his role as the manager of the Phillies, he announced today. The Hall-of-Fame second baseman was hired late in the 2013 season after Charlie Manuel lost his job. He’ll be replaced on an interim basis by Pete Mackanin.

“With some leadership roles coming up, I think it was important for me not to be in the way,” said Sandberg,“but to allow the organization to go forward.” He explained that he “felt it was better now than later” that he hand over his role, citing the “accumulation of … losses” as the major factor in his decision.

Sandberg went on to reiterate that he was making the move now in part due to the team’s apparent decision to make changes in the front office, apparently alluding to the reportedly pending hiring of Andy MacPhail. “With some changes at the top looming,” he said, “I did not want to be in the way of anything happening and the progress going forward.”

GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and president Pat Gillick indicated that the move came as a surprise. While Mackanin will take over for the time being, the front office decisionmakers indicated that the process of filling the vacancy in the long term is still in the early stages. When asked when the upper-level changes would go through and who would decide on a new manager, Gillick declined to comment.

Discussing the matter on the broadcast of the team’s game tonight, Amaro said that the decision came “out of the blue” from the organization’s perspective. He said that he and others tried “to push [Sandberg] to stay with us,” but that he felt the outgoing skipper “had made up his mind.”

Expectations for the club were obviously quite low coming into the year, and it has not been pretty. The Phillies sit at 26-48 entering today’s action. It would be impossible to lay all (or even much) of the blame at Sandberg’s feet for the results, of course, as the organization all but declared itself in the early stages of rebuilding over the winter.

June 25

NL Notes: Utley

--Chase Utley‘s DL stint for a nagging ankle injury came as something of a surprise to Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News reports“In my communication with Chase throughout the season about playing he’s always been up and willing to go and no real reports of anything holding him back, so I was a little bit surprised by it in some regards,” Sandberg said. The skipper’s reaction is at least potentially notable because of the delicate situation that seems to be playing itself out in Philly. Sandberg had increasingly turned to Cesar Hernandez at second, but it has remained unclear what strategic direction the organization was taking with Utley, one of the faces of the team’s last great run. The veteran is already halfway (249/500 plate appearances) to triggering a $15MM vesting clause for next year. Given his recent injury history and marked production downturn this year, it would obviously behoove the club to avoid that obligation, but doing so will likely require some deft handling.

 

Pitching Market Notes: Yankees

At least as of yesterday afternoon, the Yankees “were not on [Cole] Hamels,” Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. Nevertheless, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes, New York could ultimately feel it necessary to add a high-quality arm. Sherman ticks through some options, noting that there is “nothing active ongoing with the Reds” and suggesting that Jeff Samardzija could be a prime target if the Yankees decide to pursue a starter.


June 24

NL Notes: Phillies

When he formally joins the Phillies, reported new executive Andy MacPhail could spend some time evaluating the baseball operations department before deciding whether to make any changes or additions to the front office, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. One possibility, per a source, would be for MacPhail to try to bring on Angels assistant GM Matt Klentak in some capacity. The young executive got his start with the Orioles when MacPhail was in charge there. Klentak was a guest on the MLBTR Podcast’s third episode, back in October.

East Notes: Franco

This one probably sounds worse than it is: the Yankees fell just $5K shy of landing Maikel Franco as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic, as Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports on Twitter. Franco ultimately received a $100K bonus from the Phillies, and of course ultimately rose to become quite a well-regarded young player. For his part, Yankees GM Brian Cashman indicated that he is not aware that the team fell just shy of picking up a winning lottery ticket, but neither did he deny that an offer may have been made, as Daniel Popper of the New York Daily News reports. Regardless of what really happened, of course, it would be awfully hard to lay much fault on the New York international scouting department for missing out on Franco, who was obviously not a premium prospect at that time (as his bonus indicates) and took some time to blossom as a professional. Philadelphia does certainly deserve some praise, however, for its investment: the now-22-year-old entered play today with a .319/.368/.604 slash and ten long balls over 155 plate appearances on the year.


Phillippe Aumont Declines Outright, Elects Free Agency

Righty Phillippe Aumont has declined the Phillies‘ outright assignment and instead elected free agency, Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports on Twitter. Aumont was designated for assignment over the weekend.

Aumont had previously been outrighted, meaning that he had the option to hit the market this time around. The 26-year-old righty had never managed to show sustained results as a big league reliever, struggling in particular to limit free passes. Aumont lost his 40-man spot early last year, but remained in the organization after clearing waivers.

He was doing a nice job of preventing runs at Triple-A this season after moving back to a starting role, posting a 2.35 ERA in 65 innings despite continued control problems. Philadelphia brought Aumont up for a big league start to bolster its threadbare rotation, but the results weren’t pretty. He walked seven batters in just four frames and served up two home run balls en route to allowing six earned.

With Aumont formally leaving the Philly organization, we can officially close the books on the 2009 deal that sent Cliff Lee to the Mariners. The Phillies never received any significant contributions from the young players it acquired, though of course the club ultimately re-signed Lee not long after.

Phillies Plan To Hire Andy MacPhail Soon

2:16pm: The Phillies plan to name MacPhail as their top baseball decision-maker within the next week or so, Heyman writes in a full column. MacPhail’s title is expected to be named as the new team president, or something similar to that title. Upon MacPhail’s hiring, Gillick would shift to a consulting role similar to the one he held before assuming presidential duties in the wake of former president David Montgomery’s health concerns.

1:54pm: The Phillies plan to appoint former Twins/Cubs/Orioles executive Andy MacPhail to a key spot within their front office in the near future, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter). Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com first reported earlier this month that the Phils were eyeing MacPhail as a potential key decision-maker in their front office.

It’s not clear specifically what role MacPhail will fill, but 77-year-old team president Pat Gillick has stated in the past that he doesn’t envision remaining in the role for the long-term. (Gillick also recently told the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Bob Brookover that he expected the team to make a front office hire in the near future.) It seems unlikely that MacPhail would replace GM Ruben Amaro Jr. at this stage, though he could enter the organization in a fashion similar to that of Tony La Russa in Arizona last season. La Russa was named “Chief Baseball Officer” of the D-Backs last May and oversaw the front office throughout the summer, weighing in on baseball operations decisions before ultimately deciding to replace then-GM Kevin Towers in the offseason.

MacPhail has spent a significant amount of time heading baseball operations departments over his career as an executive. He served as the Twins’ GM during the team’s World Series victories in 1987 and 1991, and he spent nearly a decade as the president of the Cubs following that position. MacPhail left Chicago to become the Orioles’ president of baseball operations, where a number of moves that he made served as the foundation for the Orioles’ current contender.

MacPhail was heading Baltimore’s baseball ops department when the team traded Erik Bedard to Seattle in exchange for a package of prospects highlighted by franchise center fielder Adam Jones and right-hander Chris Tillman. He also acquired J.J. Hardy from the Twins in exchange for a pair of fungible minor league relievers and picked up Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter from the Rangers in exchange for Koji Uehara.

Chase Utley To DL, May Impact Vesting Option

Late Tuesday night, the Phillies announced that they placed second baseman Chase Utley on the disabled list after a season of struggling with a right ankle injury.  The news is frustrating for Utley for the obvious reasons, but the DL trip could also impact his future beyond this season.  As Todd Zolecki of MLB.com notes, Utley has a $15MM option for 2016 that automatically vests if he reaches 500 plate appearances.  It’s quite possible that Utley’s time away from the field could keep him from reaching that plateau.

As of today, the 36-year-old has 249 PAs through the first 73 games of the season.  The 15-day DL stint alone won’t rule out 500 plate appearances, of course, but any missed time beyond that will make it even more challenging.  As it stands, Utley isn’t sure exactly how long he’s going to need in order to heal up.

Talking to the doctor today, the more time I can lay off it the better chance it has to heal properly,” Utley said. “I don’t have an exact time frame. It will be at least 15 days.

On the plus side, Utley says that his knees – which have been an issue in the past – are healthy.  Through roughly three months of the season, Utley hasn’t been looking like the six-time All-Star that he is.  The veteran owns a slash line of .179/.257/.275, which would easily stand as his career worst if the season ended today.  Utley’s name popped up on MLBTR more than once this season as a trade possibility, but he won’t garner much interest this summer with the way he has been hitting and his ankle issue.

In other Phillies news, we learned earlier today that the Yankees are not ruling out a pursuit of ace Cole Hamels.

Yankees Not Ruling Out A Pursuit Of Cole Hamels

The Yankees will get a first-hand look at Cole Hamels later today when the Phillies’ ace takes the hill for the series finale between the two clubs at Yankee Stadium, and Newsday’s David Lennon writes that they’ll be paying close attention to his performance, as the Yankees haven’t ruled out a pursuit of Hamels on the trade market.

The cost to acquire Hamels, both financially and prospect-wise, would be significant, but Lennon hears that such obstacles don’t necessarily preclude interest on the Yankees’ behalf. The Yankees have a full rotation at the moment, with Ivan Nova coming off the disabled list to join Masahiro TanakaMichael PinedaCC SabathiaNathan Eovaldi and Adam Warren. Of course, there are persistent injury concerns with both Tanaka and Pineda, and the team will likely want to monitor the workloads of both Nova (one year removed from Tommy John) and Warren, who has thrown a combined 155 2/3 innings over the past two seasons.

Obviously, this report is preliminary in nature, so it’s best not to get too carried away with speculation, but one would imagine that the Phillies would express interest in the list of usual suspects that sit atop the Yankees’ prospect rankings. Right-hander Luis Severino, right fielder Aaron Judge, first baseman Greg Bird and shortstop Jorge Mateo are among the most highly regarded Yankees prospects. Further lending some insight into the possibilities, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote this morning that the Phillies’ preference seems to be to add offensive prospects, preferably ones that are reasonably close to the Majors.

Hamels is guaranteed $86.2MM through the guaranteed portion of his contract, which ends in the 2018 season. He’ll have $12.66MM remaining on this year’s $22.5MM salary following tonight’s start, plus $22.5MM annually from 2016-18. He has a club/vesting option for the 2019 season that is valued at $20MM and comes with a $6MM buyout. While there’s been speculation that Hamels would want that option guaranteed to approve a deal to a club on his no-trade list, that’s not an issue for the Yankees, because they are one of two American League clubs that are not on Hamels’ no-trade list. (The Rangers, who have also been connected to Hamels in the past 24 hours, are also pre-approved by the left-hander.)

The Yankees’ interest in Hamels dates back to the offseason, where one report even indicated that they’d come the closest to acquiring Hamels. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that talks between New York and Philadelphia reached advanced stages. It doesn’t appear that the Phillies came all that close to trading Hamels in general this past winter. But, by waiting until July, Amaro may have upped his leverage, as his ace figures to be far more coveted over the next five weeks than he was at the tail end of the offseason.

June 23

Latest On Hamels Talks Between Phillies, Rangers

5:20pm: A team source tells MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan that a trade for Hamels “is not on the board” at time time (Twitter link).

11:39am: The Rangers and Phillies are “having ongoing dialogue” regarding the possibility of a deal that would send lefty Cole Hamels to Texas, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Hamels cannot block a deal to the Rangers pursuant to the current list of teams covered by his limited no-trade clause, Morosi adds in a later tweet.

Texas has received surprisingly solid results from its rotation. And as Morosi notes (Twitter link) the club still expects to receive contributions from rehabbing starters Martin Perez, Matt Harrison, and Derek Holland.

While those factors might indicate that the Rangers could sit back and rely on its internal options, there are other indicators favoring a move. The current staff has succeeded in spite of rather uninspiring peripherals. And the injured pitchers still have a ways to go to prove they will be durable and effective.

Per Morosi, the real motivating factor on the Texas side of the equation is the fact that the team “view[s] Hamels as [an] elite upgrade.” Given his contract, the Rangers presumably see Hamels as a current and future asset that could not only give the team a shot this year but pair with Yu Darvish atop the staff for seasons to come. It remains to be seen how much staying power this year’s Rangers club has, but adding Hamels certainly would not be solely a “win-now” move.

As of late April, at least, Philadelphia was reportedly asking for a package headlined by catcher Jorge Alfaro and outfielder Nomar Mazara. Both of those prospects were rated among the Rangers’ top five heading into the year by Baseball America. While they would look to be great fits for a Philly organization that is looking to add premium talent, it remains to be seen whether Texas has any appetite to pay that kind of price. (Note that Alfaro may not be a movable asset this point, as he is dealing with a significant ankle injury.)

Needless to say, the Phillies will hope that several other bidders enter the fray to drive up the return. Things are shaping up rather nicely for GM Ruben Amaro Jr., as many of the clubs that seem like a fit remain in contention and in need of an arm. Meanwhile, the other presumed top arm available, Johnny Cueto, is a pure rental who now faces at least some potential health questions.

Hamels has been as strong as ever this year, racking up 94 1/3 innings of 2.96 ERA pitching with 9.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. And the 31-year-old seems ready to move past a seemingly minor hamstring injury to make his next start.

The Hamels contract looks more and more appealing every time you check back: he’s owed the balance of a $22.5MM salary this season, and then has three guaranteed years plus an option for a total guarantee of just $73.5MM. (Hamels’ deal also included a $6MM signing bonus, with an unreported payout schedule, which could still factor into the equation.) Essentially, a team dealing for him now would not only have the benefit of adding a top arm for the rest of this year, but would be making a future commitment that is not much greater than the contract signed last year by James Shields (four years, $75MM). At the start of 2016, Hamels will be a full year younger than was Shields at the start of his deal.

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