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Could Phillies’ possible decline send Cole Hamels to LA?

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Let’s not kid ourselves: the Phillies just don’t score runs for Cole Hamels. They haven’t since the end of 2007, and that’s when they had guys who actually hit home runs!Cole Hamels photoL Chuck Solomon

So fast forward to 2012. It’s only eight games into the season, but the Phillies are scoring runs for nobody! Instead of looking over and seeing Chase Utley at second base, Hamels sees Freddy Galvis, who might not ever hit 31 home runs in a career let alone an entire season (No disrespect to Galvis, but he really isn’t projected to be a power hitter). Then there’s Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, who both might be playing elsewhere after 2013 (Victorino is a free agent after this season). The worst part of this is the possibility of Ryan Howard not being effective whenever he returns.

Yes, the season is young, but what if this offense stays the same through the next 154 contests?  Don’t expect some big bopper to come in and take Howard and/or Utley’s place. The Phightins no longer have the kind of prospects teams are willing to accept for the high profile players Ruben Amaro has acquired at every trade deadline since 2009. Moreover, what players on the big club are exactly expendable right now?  And oh yeah, there’s the whole luxury-tax threshold issue as well.

Meanwhile, Hamels is staring down the barrel of a multi-year deal when the end of the season comes to a close. Don’t think he doesn’t see all of the above happening around him. He also saw the Giants give Matt Cain a $112.5 million extension. CBS Sports Jon Heyman reports that Hamels could see significantly more on the open market than Cain, possibly ranging from $150-175 million.

Moreover, don’t think he didn’t see Magic Johnson and friends’ purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers for $2.15 billion. The Dodgers currently have baseball’s best record, 2011 MVP runner up Matt Kemp, and Hamels’ counterpart, 2011 Cy Young Award Winner and fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw. From the looks of it, the Dodgers could very well become the National League’s version of the Yankees as early as next year. To say they will have lots of money to spend is an understatement. Probably $150-175 million to spend.  Also keep in mind Hamels is a native Californian.

See where this is going? I really don’t enjoy the irony of Magic Johnson possibly sticking it to Philadelphia just one more time.

On the flip side, you have this Phillies team that seems to be aging way before it should be. Frankly, if the Phillies let Hamels test the free agent market, chances are he probably won’t come back.  With Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee turning 35 and 34 by seasons end, respectively, the lack of Hamels in this rotation in the years to come would not bode well for the Phillies. If I were Amaro (and yes, I know it’s a lot easier said than done), I would try to get this done sooner than later if they really want to keep Hamels in Philadelphia. However, if negotiations are going nowhere mid-season and the Phillies are well out of the race, they might be able to get a very interesting package for Hamels. One that could get them back some prospects they have lost over the years as the result of deadline deals.

Truthfully, the Phillies might want to see how the rest of 2012 pans out before they make any decisions. Keep in mind a long term deal for Hamels would all but close the door on possible long term deals for Victorino as well as Pence over the next two years.

But if the Phillies fall into a rebuilding mode this season, they might have bigger issues than keeping Cole Hamels.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Hamels photo: Chuck Solomon