Although I’d be cautious about allowing yourself to believe that the only serious suitors for lefty ace Jon Lester are the Cubs and Red Sox, I’ll forgive you if you see things shaping up that way, especially in light of last night’s twin reports about each team meeting soon – with ownership in tow – with Lester and/or his reps.
Accepting for a moment that it does seem most likely at this point that one of the Cubs or Red Sox will get Lester, what happens to the “loser”? Do they go all out for Max Scherzer or James Shields? Or do they move into the trade market and push for Cole Hamels?
Well, Bob Nightengale has a very interesting read on Hamels and the Phillies, and he prefaced it with this tweet today:
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) November 13, 2014
Obviously that’s highly interesting, and I’ll grant that each of the Cubs and Red Sox are interested in Hamels. Indeed, Nightengale writes that the Cubs actually prefer Hamels to Lester, which is something we’ve not heard before.
It feels a bit much to say, however, that the team that doesn’t get Lester (a phrase that already includes a lot of assumptions) will “likely” get Hamels. After all, there are other teams that would probably want Hamels, and the Phillies haven’t yet indicated a willingness to come down from their unrealistic demands. Indeed, GM Ruben Amaro speaks to Nightengale in the piece and suggests his impression – previously espoused – that prospects are overvalued right now. I’d say it’s absolutely plausible, but there are so many variables.
One of the most interesting aspects of Nightengale’s long piece is the revelation of eight of the nine teams to which Hamels cannot block a trade: the Cubs, the Rangers, the Yankees, the Nationals, the Cardinals, the Braves, the Dodgers, and the Padres. Now we have a pretty good idea of how Hamels came to his list – these appear to be teams he actually would want to go to (meaning that he’s not just using his no-trade list for leverage purposes), including contenders and his hometown San Diego. Now, the inclusion of the Cubs makes more sense.
We’ll see how this plays out. Given the urgency with which the Red Sox and Cubs appear to be pursuing Lester, it does seem like any trade talks involving Hamels would come after Lester signs. Perhaps that’s the Phillies’ preference, anyway. But all assets affect the market for each other, and you can’t simply say, “Of course you wait to pursue Hamels until after Lester signs, because you’d rather just pay money than money and prospects.” Once Lester goes, the Phillies’ position with respect to Hamels improves, and they may be emboldened to hold the line on a high price.
Then again, even after Lester signs, it increasingly sounds like we’re going to see many other pitchers available in trade.