cole hamelsLast week, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro revealed that there was still a chance that lefty ace Cole Hamels could be dealt before the 2015 season begins, and as many as eight teams have had some level of interest in the 31-year-old at some point this offseason. Four teams, according to Amaro, have made “real” offers – though obviously none was enough to get a deal done.

Although the four teams making “real” offers were not identified by Amaro or CSN’s Jim Salisbury, who authored the piece featuring Amaro’s comments, Salisbury did identify the Cubs as one of six teams (Padres, Rangers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Red Sox) that have had interest.

Against that late-offseason backdrop, I found comments from Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi on MLBN Radio particularly interesting, as documented here at the CCO. Although I’ve not been able to locate audio to listen for myself, the CCO tends to be reliable on these things. Morosi apparently said that there have been conversations between the Cubs and Phillies about Hamels, but the Cubs have drawn a firm line at not including any of Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, or Jorge Soler. Morosi speculated that the Cubs might be willing to include Javier Baez, but he’s not sure the Phillies would be interested in Baez because of his swing-and-miss issues. The talks, Morosi indicated, don’t have much momentum right now.

All in all, that’s what you’d expect, right? Given the pitching market (about to become gluttonous with free agent pitching and possible midseason trade candidates), Hamels’ contract (perfectly fine, but still a healthy investment), and the Cubs’ needs (another pricey ace is not an absolute necessity), there’s no reason to give up an elite prospect as part of a package for Hamels. Even on Baez, you might prefer to see how he looks in the run up to July 31 (together with the other young players whose positions could be impacted by the group’s performance as a whole) before parting ways.

So, I remain where I was last week on how the Cubs should proceed:

The Cubs are not going to deal a Kris Bryant or an Addison Russell just to get Hamels. And, from the Phillies’ perspective, maybe that means the Cubs simply don’t get Hamels. It’s not like the Cubs won’t have other options, and maybe their best course is to head into the season and re-evaluate their needs/opportunities come June and July. Maybe that will involve Hamels, and maybe then the Phillies will be in a more realistic dealing position. Or maybe the Cubs will have found by then that Travis Wood bounced back. Or Edwin Jackson turned things around in a significant way. Or Jacob Turner broke out. Or Felix Doubront broke out. Or Tsuyoshi Wada emerged. Etc. As I’ve said before, the Cubs’ fifth starter competition remains one of the more interesting storylines going forward, and it’s not like the Cubs don’t have a ton of options that could plausibly be quite good (even if not Hamels-level, obviously).

If a trade with the Cubs remains unlikely any time soon, is that also true of other potential suitors?

You can read the CCO’s recap of Morosi’s comments for more on the other potentially interested teams, and the Phillies’ possible (extreme) demands. It’s really hard to see a deal coming together before midseason if the Phillies stick to their reported guns.

Indeed, Jim Salisbury writes that it’s most likely that neither Hamels nor Cliff Lee is dealt before July (note that he again lists the same six interested teams: Cubs, Padres, Rangers, Cardinals, Dodgers, and Red Sox.

Speaking of the Red Sox, Nick Cafardo reports that, of the four offers Phillies GM Ruben Amaro last week mentioned receiving on Hamels, one was from the Red Sox. The offer, however, was heavy on big league pieces rather than top prospects – which is not what the Phillies want – so it’s easy to see why no deal was consummated.

The Red Sox are among the most similar suitors to the Cubs, in terms of having big-league-ready, high-impact talent, as well as a deep pool of younger, further off prospects. It’s interesting that the Red Sox have been unwilling to tap that pool to acquire Hamels, given the obvious need for a front-end guy in their rotation. It speaks both to the Red Sox’s willingness to go with a large number of probably-decent starting pitchers (as opposed to a traditional 1-2-3-4-5 rotation), and to the availability of other arms in the coming months. It seems fair to say that the Red Sox are viewing any Hamels acquisition similarly to the Cubs: it would be very nice to have him, and he’s got a decent contract, but he’s not worth the top tier of impact young players.

Derrick Goold confirms that the Cardinals have had interest in Hamels, but it’s not clear whether they would try to pull the trigger on a big deal before the season starts.

Pitchers and catchers around baseball report to Spring Training this week, so, at a minimum, it seems extraordinarily unlikely that Hamels will be reporting with a team other than the Phillies. From there, it’s always possible that a key injury changes things, but it seems like folks around baseball are going to be following this story on into the Summer.