The rumors of Cole Hamels' departure will not soon subside. The ace lefthander cannot be traded until November. Whether or not to deal Hamels to replenish a depleted pool of young talent will be the winter's most significant dilemma.

Hamels has made his intent clear: He wants to remain in Philadelphia. But he wants to win, and contention could take the Phillies years to recapture.

"For me the idea is to try to turn it around rather quickly," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "You have to have starting pitching to do that and he'd be a big piece."

That is why the Phillies will want an acquiring team to surrender three or four top prospects and assume the $96 million owed to Hamels. They are in no way motivated to trade the 30-year-old pitcher; Sandberg identified starting pitching as the team's greatest need moving forward.

"He'd be a tough one to replace," Sandberg said. "He'd be tough to replace. We have question marks about Cliff [Lee]. Cliff, we won't know. A.J. [Burnett], we don't know. You have to start your staff somewhere and he'd be a good place to start."

Lee, 35, is sidelined by a strained left elbow. Burnett, 37, has a player option worth as much as $12.75 million next season. Sandberg said he does not have a read on whether Burnett will retire.