Ken Rosenthal wrote Friday that the Texas Rangers, owners of one of the worst records in the AL, are “open for business” (link requires a subscription, which you can get here) and have informed teams that they’re willing to do a little wheeling and dealing. Though Rosenthal says talks haven’t really serious, several teams are monitoring the situation.
Given the diminution of their talent over the past few seasons, the most prominent trade chip remaining in Arlington is Cole Hamels, who has been there since a trade from the Phillies in 2015. You probably recall that said deal went down not long after Hamels held the Cubs hitless in Chicago to break the team’s no-hit streak and seemingly push them to the point of mailing in the rest of the season.
Instead, the Cubs rallied to tear through the second half en route to a 97-win season and the first of three consecutive NLCS berths.
The 34-year-old Hamels, meanwhile, has pitched well for the Rangers and presents a viable option for a team looking to bolster its rotation for a stretch run this season. We saw how Justin Verlander was able to turn back the clock after a trade last season, and Hamels is roughly the same age as Verlander was last year. He’s also also a lot cheaper than the current Astros ace.
While Verlander was due the remainder of his $28 million for 2017, along with that same salary in both 2018 and 2019, Hamels is only guaranteed around $23.5 million total at this point. That’s a rough estimate that includes the rest of this season and a $6 million buyout for 2019.
Okay, so let’s bring this back around to the Cubs, who have no rotation spots open and a stated desire to remain under the cap this season. Why, then, would we be talking about them as even a remote possibility to trade for Hamels? Here’s what Rosenthal wrote:
Left-hander Cole Hamels, owed the balance of his $22.5 million salary for this season plus a $6 million buyout on a $20 million option for 2019, is likely to be the most prominent Ranger moved. Hamels, however, can be traded to only nine teams without his permission — the Mariners, Cardinals, Nationals, Astros, Cubs, Phillies, Braves, Royals, and Rays, according to MLB Network’s Jon Paul Morosi.
That amounts to barely more than nothing, since it’s really just a matter of where the Rangers could trade the veteran lefty without his approval. But then you had the following tweet from Bob Nightengale, which turned the volume up just a little bit.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) May 18, 2018
I’m not sure how you want to take this, but I’m filing the Cubs’ inclusion under “Consider the source,” as Mr. Nightengale isn’t really known for being the most accurate with his reporting. Hamels would bump someone out of a spot and would push the Cubs over the CBT threshold (barring a subsequent move, that is). The other teams, however, don’t seem nearly as dubious. The Brewers could be particularly willing to make a deal after failing to address their staff in any meaningful way this winter.
And even though Hamels isn’t what you’d call cheap, he’s a short-term asset that wouldn’t tie up a team’s finances beyond this season. He’s also posting a 9.9 K/9 rate that would be a career high if he maintained it, not to mention a 3.48 ERA that’s his second-lowest since 2015. Other the other hand, he’s posting career-highs in walks (3.7 BB/9), homers (1.6 HR/9), and FIP (4.83).
This whole thing is still very much in its infancy, so any speculation at this point is premature and lacks any real value. What we can be pretty sure of, though, is that the Cubs will not be involved in any way other than being mentioned in a tweet or two.