By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
Perhaps the best news for Phillies fans in an otherwise dismal season was the re-signing Wednesday of starting lefthander Cole Hamels to a six-year, $144 million contract season with a club-vesting option for next season.
At 28-years-old, Hamels is still young enough and has enough of an arm to help team get back on the winning track for next season and possibly beyond. With the team currently mired in last place and 10 games below .500, the Phillies will still be sellers by the time the trade deadline rolls around, but at least they won’t giving away valuable commodity like Hamels.
With Hamels around for a few more years, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. knows that the Phillies are several upgrades in talent away from being legitimate contenders in 2013. Hamels has clearly been the Phillies best pitcher this season. If the 2012 season’s woes are an aberration, especially with the injuries to Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay, signing Hamels to a long-term deal goes a long way in giving fans hope for a better next year.
While the Phillies are starting to show signs of life on the field after winning their last four games in their final bat, the signing of Cole Hamels to a multi-year deal will probably make it easier for the team to part ways with players like centerfielder Shane Victorino, outfielder Juan Pierre, John Mayberry Jr.,third baseman Placido Polanco and pitcher Joe Blanton whether it’s at the trade deadline or during the off-season.
“When you retain some of the best pitchers in the game, there’s going to be costs,” Amaro said. “It’s my job to put the pieces of the puzzle together in the right fashion. We have a lot of decisions to make. The one thing that’s clear is that we’re committed to winning. We’re committed to bringing home another championship. We’re committed to trying to improve whether it be during the course of this deadline or beyond that or during the offseason.”
Amaro said the Phillies position at the trade deadline will be dependent upon how well the team is playing in the days leading up to the trade deadline. So far, the Phillies are 8-4 since the All-Star break.
“The biggest thing that we have is the presence of those of what we call our big three with Roy Halladay, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the middle of our lineup,” Amaro said. “That was the club we were hoping to have coming out of spring training … We have to play the best baseball we can possibly play from here on in and hope that we can put ourselves in position to get back in this thing”
But the idea that they have a realistic chance to even make the second wildcard spot is wishful thinking at this point. First, the Phillies have to get back to .500. They are 10 games behind the Atlanta Braves for that spot and would have to leap frog six teams to do it and hope those teams have a major collapse along the way.
Not impossible, but highly improbable.
What Hamels deal ultimately means is that the clock is ticking on a few players in the Phillies clubhouse even in the midst of the team winning its four games in dramatic fashion. That’s something players don’t want to think about or even want to talk about. The days leading up to the July 31st traded deadline are going to be nerve-wracking for some Phillies players with trades and rumors of trades swirling around the social networking sites and the traditional media.
“I can go on a blog tonight and write whatever I want and start a whole other rumor,” Victorino said. “If I paid attention to everything said, I’d be a train wreck. Everyday it’s something new. I’m just focusing on winning and whatever happens, happens.”