Now, this is, of course, the popular choice. And what a weird (fun? I guess?) story it would be for Hamels to leave during the Phils agonizing, seasons-long slump, only to return at the tail end of a lightning-in-a-bottle run to help them bully themselves into a pennant race.
Vince Velasquez has been perfectly average this season, as has fifth starter Ben Lively. That said, Aaron Nola looks like the ace Philadelphia aways envisioned, Jake Arrieta is quietly back into 2016 form, and Nick Pivetta looks like a very solid 3 or 4.
Philadelphia is similar to Atlanta, in that the baseball world expects them to be good — just not yet. While they seem less complete than Atlanta, and thus less capable of sustaining their pace, if they are still in the hunt come July, Hamels could bring a whole lot back to the city of brotherly love. It wouldn’t be “his” team any longer, but he would be much more than a role player. Seeing him and Jake Arrieta contribute to the next wave of the Phillies would be exciting to witness in September and October.
The Phillies have a rich farm system, particularly as it concerns pitching. Their top prospects — Mickey Moniak, Sixto Sanchez, Scott Kingery, J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro — are obviously off the table (largely based on their projected roles in helping the Major League club this season), but there are some projectable arms further down the pipe.
Righty Adonis Medina signed with Philadelphia as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, and while he has succeeded at every level thus far, A) he’s never pitched about A ball, and B) he’s a ground ball pitcher who doesn’t miss many bats. Of course, all of that can play up to the Major Leagues, but Medina alone won’t cut it.
The same can be said about pitchers Enyel De Los Santos and Kevin Gowdy: nothing particularly sexy about them, but rotations are often anchored by just these types of players. De Los Santos might make the club this season as a swingman, and Gowdy reportedly has a feel for three pitches already, making his upside something to monitor. The wild card is Franklyn Kilome: at 6’6, the 22-year-old is physically intriguing, though he’s been in the Phillies system since 2013, and is just now pitching at AA. The control is still coming around, and if the Rangers weren’t so desperate for pitching, a risk on Kilome might be worthwhile.
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Of course, Philadelphia also has guys like Cole Stobbe, a third baseman with solid (if unspectacular) tools, and outfielder Dylan Cozens, whose “athletic” background is one that would almost certainly entice the Rangers (can you sense my eye roll?). Tom Eshelman could also enter into the fray.
Of course, a package deal involving someone like Keone Kela could potentially pry Sixto Sanchez from the Phils, but that would take both Kela and Hamels pitching at the very highest levels come July (and even then, it’s a tremendous longshot; the Phils love this kid, and with good reason).
The only hangup on a deal with the Phillies may be their available prospects. While their farm is chocked full of young talent, the availability of any “lights out” prospects (assuming Moniak and Sanchez are off out of the question) might not be enough for the Rangers in a Hamels deal.
Trade likelihood: 6/10
Beyond these clubs, of course, Hamels could waive his no-trade rights. The Dodgers and Yankees have both been linked to him in the past, and of course Boston, Milwaukee, and even Washington might be in play for his services in the near future (the image of Cole Hamels and Bryce Harper sharing a locker room simply makes me giggle).
As of now, though, there are some legitimate options for the Rangers moving forward, none of which would require the potential obstacle of a consenting Hamels.