As is usually the case when Amaro and personnel moves are being discussed in the same breath, all I can do is offer an amused chuckle at the thought of asking for “four or five” prospects with multiple Grade-A youngsters included in return for Hamels right now. I’m generally much better at guessing at free agent costs than I am at speculating on the trade market, but even I can see that that would be way out of line with what players like Hamels usually bring. By way of comparison, the most recent large prospect package that was traded away (off the top of my head) was the group of four players that Cincinnati sent to San Diego in exchange for Mat Latos. That group included two top 100 prospects in Yasmani Grandal and Yonder Alonso, as well as bullpen prospect Brad Boxberger and Petco prayer Edinson Volquez. In other words: nowhere near the Phillies’ supposed asking price. Now, yes, Hamels is a tier or two above Latos in the ranks of MLB starting pitchers, but a) the Reds were in a uniquely good position to sell off those prospects since both were blocked by better assets on their big league roster and b) Latos had four years of team control remaining, while Hamels is a pure rental.
With that in mind, the best comparison to Hamels is probably his teammate Cliff Lee. Lee was traded in July of 2010, just months before he would file for free agenccy, and the return Seattle got for him wasn’t even half of what Philadelphia is reportedly offering, nor was the Jesus Montero-centric offer the Yankees put on the table that summer. That’s probably a much better barometer of what the Phillies can expect to get for dealing Hamels at this point, unless the southpaw is willing to sign a somewhat discounted extension as part of the move, but it he was willing to do that you’d figure he’d have already signed up for the long haul in Philly.
The Yankees will, of course, be connected to Hamels talks in some way, as will just about every other contending team over the next month, but in the Bombers’ case, not having the trade chips might be a bigger problem than whether or not Brian Cashman is interested in dealing for a rental player at this point. With the departure of Jesus Montero and the disaster that has been Dellin Betances‘ season in Triple-A, the Yankees have just one top tier prospect at the upper level of the minors: the injured Manny Banuelos. You would have to assume that any proposal the Yankees put together for Hamels would have to begin with him, but given his current elbow injury and his general ineffectiveness since really coming onto the scene last spring, you’d also have to figure that the Yankees would have to sweeten the pot with at least one more high ceiling and/or high level prospect as well. That’s asking for a lot of potential in exchange for a rental.
I was actually thinking about the trade deadline over the weekend, and the more I think about it the less I think the Yankees will be that active this month. With the lineup producing and the bullpen remaining a strength (and with reinforcements already on the way in the form of David Aardsma and Joba Chamberlain), the only place an addition really fits is in the rotation, but the Yankees’ starters have begun to really carry their weight as well. With the starters pitching well from top to bottom, a trade would have to represent a true, unquestioned, upgrade to obviously make sense, and in that respect I don’t see a ton of options on the market so far. Zack Greinke is a possibility but, like Hamels, I don’t know if the Yankees have the pieces to acquire him even putting aside doubts over whether they’re even interested. Perhaps the best fit is the Cubs’ Matt Garza. Garza isn’t as good as Hamels or Greinke, but he’s also got another year remaining on his contract, so he could remain with the team in 2013, slotting into the team’s rotation as, say, a replacement for Hiroki Kuroda and insurance for Michael Pineda‘s surgically repaired shoulder. Additionally, the Cubs are a team so bereft of good assets right now they may be less picky about getting upper level prospects and more open to trading for high upside guys in A-ball, giving the Yankee many more options if they are willing to put them on the table.
Most of all, however, I don’t expect the Yankees to get seriously involved in any major trade talks this month. Considering that you usually do that to fill holes or make up for players who are under performing, that’s probably not actually a bad thing.