With a lineup that ranks in the top 10 in runs scored, on-base percentage, and slugging, its more than fair to say the New York Yankees are only one game back in the American League East because of their impressive hitting throughout the first half of the season. It’s a testament to resurgent and healthy years from Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Stephen Drew, who’ve combined for 43 home runs, as well as the signing of catcher Brian McCann and his big bat.
New York’s second in the majors with 326 runs scored, ninth in getting on base at .323, and fourth in slugging at .429, and are in contention for the best record in the AL.
But unless the Yankees can spice up a rotation that’s mired in mediocrity, they have little chance of contending deep into the fall.
Thus, the trade talk surrounding Philadelphia Phillies ace lefty Cole Hamels figures to heat up before the July 31 deadline. New York, and a host of teams around both leagues, have reportedly expressed interest in the 31-year-old All-Star but nothing's come to fruition, yet. General manager Brian Cashman is expected to be a major player at the trade dealine and Hamels is expected to be a top target.
A three-time All-Star and the 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP, Hamels certainly has the stuff to drag the Yankees rotation out from the bottom of the AL. New York’s 30 quality starts are better than only two other squads, and the staff’s 3.95 ERA is 10th in the AL. Plus, the Yankees have one shutout victory to their name this season.
The Phillies have plummeted to 13.5 games back in the NL East at 24-47, and the team’s long sought to rid itself of hefty contracts to start afresh. Hamels is by far their most coveted piece, but he’s still under contract for five more years and could be owed as much as $110 million.
But as Hardball Talk pointed out last month, Hamels stats are equal if not better than the host of starters who inked far more lucrative deals in the offseason. Since 2012 Hamels has a better ERA than Washington’s Max Scherzer, Tampa Bay’s James Shields, and the Cubs’ Jon Lester. He also has better strikeout and walk ratios than two out of those three and only Shields has pitched more innings.
Thus, the rest of Hamels contract falls in line with what the Yankees would have to pay to acquire someone of his ilk in free agency. In fact, New York would probably have to pay more along the lines of the $210 million the Nationals gave Scherzer.
The same report pointed out that while an unnamed Yankee source said the team was “not looking” at Hamels, it’s in New York’s best interests to maintain interest and make sure Philadelphia’s demands don’t balloon too high.
And it already appears the Phillies demands could be getting in the way. Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro told CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman that in four different “cases," the Phillies asking prices for players weren’t met. Cleary the Phillies are actively selling, but perhaps the deadline will have to get closer for them or a trade partner to fold on a deal.
Hamels is currently dealing with a hamstring strain that forced Philadelphia to push back a start. Now, perhaps coincidentally, he’s scheduled to face the Yankees explosive lineup on Wednesday. Heyman also reported that teams interested in Hamels prefer to see him start two more times to make sure the injury really is only minor.
So far this season, Hamels has managed to put together a 5-5 record over 14 starts, with a 2.96 ERA and 103 strikeouts compared to 31 walks.