Inside the Phillies: Phillies, Hamels trying to get a deal done

Posted: July 26, 2012

Another day has been erased from the calendar.

Time is running out for teams and players to make decisions that will affect the remainder of this season as well as their future beyond this year. The trade deadline is only six days away.

The Phillies continued to work on their first order of business Tuesday, which is reaching an agreement on a contract extension with lefthander Cole Hamels. A source close to the situation said the two sides were "working hard to try and get a solution" before adding that there are "still issues remaining."

The source confirmed a report that said the sides are working on a six-year deal that could go north of the $127.5 million Matt Cain received from the San Francisco Giants earlier this year.

Once the Hamels situation is resolved, the Phillies can turn their attention to other matters. Some difficult decisions remain for general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., including whether to hold 'em or fold 'em, a judgment based on whether he believes the Phillies have a chance to make a run for a playoff spot.

You can scoff at that notion, but if Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, Hamels, and other veterans still think it's possible, it's not easy for a GM to just say, "You're wrong, I'm pulling the plug on the season."

Thanks to Tuesday night's wild six-run, eighth-inning rally that led to a 7-6 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, the Phillies are 7-4 since the all-star break. If they repeat that sequence the rest of the season, it may not be enough to earn a playoff spot, but they will be in the mix of wild-card hopefuls.

Manager Charlie Manuel had a suggestion after his team's third come-from-behind win in as many days.

"I'd say hit leather," Manuel said. "That means buy. I'm a buying guy."

In the meantime, the rumor mill churns furiously.

Tuesday's favorite: The Phillies are eager to move rightfielder Hunter Pence, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

"I just heard [the report]," Pence said before the game. "Right now, I love Philly. I love being here. I mean look at these fans. I love being a Phillie."

It's not absurd to think that the Phillies would be willing to trade Pence, whose popularity with the fans and management has declined some.

You really can't fully describe a player until you see him play for an entire year, and anybody who has watched the team this season has seen the warts in Pence's game.

Fly balls can be an adventure in right field, and with Howard and Utley being sidelined for most of the first half, Pence did not respond well to the added pressure.

Rest assured, however, that the Phillies are not "eager" to trade Pence.

Bowl them over with a tremendous offer and they will make a deal, but don't expect a giveaway item. If Amaro were to trade Pence, he would have to get quite a package in return considering what he gave up a year ago to get the rightfielder.

Look at the Houston Astros' top 10 prospects according to Baseball America and you will see that three of them - No. 1 Jonathan Singleton, No. 2 Jarred Cosart, and No. 6 Domingo Santana - were obtained for Pence. In fact, you could argue the Phillies paid a higher price for Pence than they did to get Halladay, Cliff Lee, or Roy Oswalt.

For the second half of last season, Pence appeared to be worth the price, but maybe that was part of the problem.

"What he did in that half-season, the expectations got really high," Manuel said. "You look up, his numbers are pretty good, but he has had opportunities to hit with guys on base.

"I also think that he is the one guy who puts a lot of pressure on himself because he wanted to do more. That's who he is. He can't help that. That's just trying. If he just relaxes and plays his own game, I think you'll see a much better Hunter. With Utley and Howard back in the lineup, I think we'll see that from him. I described him as [different], but I can also tell you he is a very serviceable player. He's dangerous and he has won some games for us."

He won another Tuesday. After Erik Kratz provided a spark with a two-run pinch-hit home run and team MVP Carlos Ruiz tied the game with a three-run double, Pence dropped a bloop single into right field that completed the Phillies' six-run, eighth-inning rally.

"We see that identity [again]," Pence said. "Everyone kind of came together, all of the pieces came together, and we're working as a unit right now. It feels good. We still have a long way to go. It's kind of like we have a focused momentum feeling."

If it continues for another week, it's difficult to imagine the general manager being eager to break it up.


Contact Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com. Follow @brookob on Twitter.

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