Amaro: Phillies aren't looking to trade Hamels

Posted: November 17, 2011

MILWAUKEE - The caveat was necessary for a man who has dealt away aces and top prospects, players thought untouchable - a label that, truthfully, does not exist in baseball and certainly not in Ruben Amaro Jr.'s mind.

"I can't say we'd never, ever trade anybody," Amaro said.

In an empty ballroom at the Pfister Hotel, the Phillies general manager flashed a trademark smirk as his meetings with the rest of baseball's deal-makers neared completion. Amaro still has about $60 million to spend this winter, and that is his priority. That free agency looms next winter for Cole Hamels is something Amaro will handle later.

"We have some other fish to fry right now," he said.

Of course, the longer Hamels remains unsigned, the more time there is for speculation to fly. Even with his caveat and preference to rarely comment on speculation, Amaro wanted to squash one idea suggested by a few national writers: The Phillies aren't thinking about trading Hamels.

"They're only writing it," Amaro said, "because it happened before."

Before, of course, was Cliff Lee. Amaro called that trade, made two winters ago, "a little different circumstance." Now, the Phillies are content with spending like one of the game's powers.

They have already committed $93 million to just five players for 2013, but every contract the Phillies sign is hardly done in a vacuum. The $50 million guaranteed to Jonathan Papelbon prompted some to question where Hamels fits. The Phillies, Amaro said, thought about that long before pursuing a closer.

Hamels, 27, is the youngest star on the oldest team in baseball, and that's what makes him so valuable to his current team. The Phillies have not yet engaged in formal negotiations with his agent, John Boggs. Hamels, who earned $9.5 million in 2011, has one year of arbitration remaining. He could make as much as $15 million through arbitration in 2012. His next multiyear contract will reflect his status as one of the top lefthanders in the game.

Both sides want a deal. Amaro said he has told Boggs of his plan to take care of more immediate needs before turning to negotiations for Hamels.

"Cole is homegrown," Amaro said. "He's a guy we would like to keep. We're not up against it right now. We have time to deal with it. Cole is a priority, but we have time to deal with it."

Sure, anything can happen. No one expected Lee to be traded after 2009. Amaro, in retrospect, said it was a mistake. He rectified it by re-signing Lee for $120 million one year later.

Hamels may not cost as much as Lee, but an average annual value of approximately $20 million is not unreasonable for a pitcher of his ability. Lee, Roy Halladay, and Ryan Howard have already crossed that threshold, but the Phillies have expanded payroll in each of the last six seasons. Money is less of a hindrance than ever.

Another megamillions deal would raise the stakes even higher. But the revenue-machine at Citizens Bank Park keeps churning sellouts and merchandise sales. A massive TV rights deal is in the not-so-distant future. So another expensive contract probably will not break the machine.

The Phillies, eventually, will negotiate with Hamels' party. When that will be, Amaro would not say. Until then, the speculation will continue.

Schneider deal close. The Phillies will go a familiar route for their backup catcher.

The team was finalizing a one-year agreement Wednesday with Brian Schneider, the Northampton native who has spent the previous two seasons backing up Carlos Ruiz. One baseball source said the deal was close and could be completed Thursday.

Schneider hit .176 with a .502 OPS in 2011, the worst offensive season of his 12-year career. But the Phillies value his defensive capabilities. Most of the pitchers said there was little drop-off when Schneider caught instead of Ruiz.

His work with Vance Worley was especially noteworthy. Schneider became the rookie's personal catcher, and Worley cited a strong relationship with Schneider as a major part in his success.

Rollins, Brewers a match? MLB.com reported that Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin intends to speak with agent Dan Lozano about Jimmy Rollins. The Brewers are unlikely to offer the five-year deal Rollins has been seeking. "You never know who says, 'We're willing to take a one-year deal and then test the market next year," Melvin said.

Extra bases. Amaro met with Bob Garber, the most popular agent at these GM meetings. Garber represents Roy Oswalt and C.J. Wilson in a very thin starting pitching market. It's unlikely the Phillies will sign either player, but Amaro said he wanted an idea of the asking prices. . . . The Phillies acquired 24-year-old righthander Adam Worthington from the Arizona Diamondbacks as the player to be named in the Mike Zagurski trade.


Contact staff writer Matt Gelb

at mgelb@phillynews.com or @magelb on Twitter.

 

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