Considering the offseason we've had so far, it's hard to imagine our rock star of a GM, AJ Preller, not being able to get a player he wants. But as the days go by and Spring Training draws closer, it seems to be getting more likely that the Padres won't be adding Cole Hamels to the roster anytime soon. Which leads us to wonder just how high was the Phillies' asking price and why couldn't/didn't AJP negotiate it low enough to be able to make the trade.
Last month the Padres were the overall favorite in the Cole Hamels race. National media made it seem like if the Phillies did in fact trade Hamels, San Diego was the most likely destination. Some Padres fans began acting like lovesick lunatics, willing to (excuse the cliche/pun) give up the farm to acquire him. I tried to remind those people that the guy they're throwing themselves at doesn't think too highly of them in general, but some people took that to mean I didn't want what was best for the team. Apparently it's like a crime to want likeable players who actually want to pitch for the team.
Don't forget: along w/ being a dodger lover, Hamels also thinks Padres fans only support during the middle innings http://t.co/nJUSLvkJao— Jodi (Jodes) Paranal (@jodes0405) January 19, 2015
Like, Hamels thinks Padres fans are shitty fans and he wouldn't want to play for us.— Jodi (Jodes) Paranal (@jodes0405) January 19, 2015
But I digress.
For a while, it seemed like it was just a matter of time before the trade would happen. And why not? AJ Preller has already given us an unbelievable offseason, revamped our roster, and added some huge names to the Padres lineup. The cherry on top would be getting that true top-tier "ace" to make our rotation (and team as a whole) a real threat to the rest of the league.
And yet, again, it's looking less and less (read: not at all) likely to happen. This morning Ken Rosenthal wrote about how awkward the Phillies' inability to move any of their high-priced veterans up to this point and the awkwardness that may permeate the upcoming Phillies Spring Training camp.
On Tuesday, an American League manager asked, half-incredulous, "Does Hamels really pitch for the Phillies this year?" It’s starting to look like the answer will be yes, because another prime opportunity to move the left-hander just passed.
With the Padres reaching a deal with free agent James Shields this week, perhaps not only a prime opportunity, but the biggest and most likely opportunity to move Hamels is now down the drain for Philadelphia. Sure, many are still hoping and thinking it's possible that AJP can still make the trade. But the way Rosenthal puts it, we may be past the point of wanting to deal for Hamels.
The Padres wanted Hamels. The Padres made an aggressive offer for Hamels. The Padres are one of nine teams that can acquire Hamels without his permission.
So, what happened?
What happened is pretty simple. The Phillies' asking price for Hamels was insanely high. Our own daveysapien heard from the mouth of Preller himself:
[If San Diego were to propose a trade] including one or more members of our starting pitching rotation as well as all of our top prospects, the Phillies would still most likely respond with a "We'll have to think about it."
And when that's the case, do we even want Preller to keep trying to make that deal? It seems like the Phillies are just way too stubborn to make the Cole Hamels hunt worthwhile. It's too big a cost to the Padres. Too much of a dent in the farm system.
Grant Brisbee had this to say about that:
Every prospect the Padres have should be a possibility, and if they trade three of their best ones for Hamels, they'll still have a bushel of them. The Padres have built a roster that has clearly made them more concerned with 2015 than any other season. They shouldn't fight that feeling.
There are cheaper, saner ways to improve the Padres. If they finish a game or two out of the postseason race, though, cheaper and saner aren't going to make anyone comfortable.
After acquiring Shields, you'd also think the price for Hamels would go down, maybe enough for AJP to be satisfied in making a trade and pretty much making the biggest splash in the history of Padres offseasons. But as Rosenthal writes, the Phillies still don't seem to be letting up on that asking price.
The Phillies want a lot from teams interested in Hamels — premium talent, plus a complete escape from his remaining financial obligation. Their inflexibility on paying down Hamels’ contract makes little sense — the Phils possess mountains of cash, and by pricing Hamels at Shields’ level, they could have demanded a better package from the Padres. The front office’s stubbornness, though, appears to go even deeper, whether it’s Amaro or Gillick who is actually calling the shots. The Phillies refuse to accept that they might not get exactly what they want.
If Philadelphia is so committed to standing pat on the Hamels front, then it looks like the Padres will, and should, move on for now. Maybe, considering how the first half of the season goes for both teams, try to reignite the trade talks closer to the midseason trade deadline. I'll still find it hard to root for a guy who thinks I only watch the middle innings of a baseball game, but maybe he'll come to his senses and realize how badly he misjudged Padres fans after leading our second-half playoff push.