3 Players to Watch
- SP Cole Hamels
Rumors circulated throughout much of the offseason regarding Cole Hamels. Even at the trade deadline last July, Hamels was a name thought to be on the lips of many rival GMs. Yet Ruben Amaro has held on to his high-priced pitcher to date (Hamels is owed $96 million through 2018).
The Phillies’ only ace now without Cliff Lee (we’ll get to him momentarily), Hamels seems to be Philadelphia’s lone chance to do anything of significance in 2015. Yet, as CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports, he remains the subject of trade talks, specifically between the Phillies and Texas Rangers.
We’ll continue to develop this as we go along, but the Phillies are probably not in the mindset of winning in 2015. And they will, and should attempt, to gain as much value for Hamels as possible, simply to retool and rebuild.
Despite pitching for the awful Phillies, Hames had a rather spectacular 2.46 ERA in 2014 with a solid 1.15 WHIP and 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings.
In other words, Hamels had one of his best seasons last year as a 30-year-old pitcher. He was linked to the Padres in the offseason, which made sense given the Padres’ aggressive offseason approach, as well as his roots in San Diego (played in high school at Rancho Bernardo High School).
For now he remains a Phillie. For now. We shall watch this season to see where he ends up.
- SP Cliff Lee
Cliff Lee is another star left-handed pitcher who may not be long for the Phillies organization. I mean he’ll remain under contract, or his representatives and the team will come to some sort of injury settlement. That is assuming that reports are true that his left elbow cannot recover from the most recent setback and his 2015 season, and possibly career, are over.
We do not know that for sure now. Instead, we know that the Phillies put Lee on the 60-day disabled list on March 18. Lee doesn’t plan to pick up a baseball for two months. At that time, he and the team doctors will reevaluate the injury and make a determination on whether his season is over or not.
Lee’s injury likely does little to impact the Phillies’ 2015 season. With or without him, they were likely headed for a rough time. But it is disheartening to see a pitcher, once known as a horse and someone who would gut his way through outings and come out eight innings later rather unscathed—break down right in front of our eyes.
It would be nice to see Lee have a swan song, at which time he can retire on his own.
- 1B Ryan Howard
“Paging Ryan Howard…Dr. Howard pick up please.” That’s about what it’s been like for Howard after he signed his own gargantuan deal back in April 2010. His personal decline began in 2010, though he still made the NL All-Star team.
In that 2010 season his home run total dropped from 45 in 2009 to 31. He increased it slightly in 2011 with 33 but overall he has not been right since then. In fairness, Howard has dealt with injuries.
Playing in 153 games, Howard recovered slightly by hitting 23 home runs and 95 runs batted in (both were his best since 2011). But unlike 2011—his last truly upper-echelon season—Howard hit for a poor average (.223) with a terrible on-base percentage by his standards (.310) and slugged a miniscule .380, which is incomparable for a player who possesses Howard’s natural power. He also struck out 190 times.
For the Phillies not to fall into the conversation of truly irrelevant by the end of April, Howard needs regain even his 2011 form. He doesn’t have to be the 2006 MVP version or third choice for MVP like in 2009. But he can’t be the 2012-14 version of himself.