There are two ways to look at the unceasing trade talk involving Cole Hamels. From the perspective of embattled Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., Hamels is a life jacket, his only chip to yield the prospect-rich return that will show his bosses he’s capable of leading a massive rebuild of a rapidly aging team. If he settles for anything less than a few potentially elite young players, he might as well start circulating his resume. In Boston, the prevailing opinion is that Amaro is out of his mind. Does he really expect the Red Sox to cough up switch-hitting 22-year-old catcher Blake Swihart — or, gasp, dynamic future leadoff man Mookie Betts — in addition to paying the $96 million left on Hamels’ contract, plus possibly guaranteeing a 2019 option that would bring the financial pick-up to $110 million? Surely, that’s being unrealistic, to say nothing of wholly unreasonable. But by not considering it, the Sox are being just as unreasonable. Look, Swihart might become the next Buster Posey, an uncommonly athletic catcher capable of dominating at the plate and controlling a game behind it. And when he arrives in the big leagues, he will be under club control for at least six years at a modest salary that will start at about $500,000 per year. Swihart is the highest-ranked Red Sox player — and at No. 17 overall, the most highly regarded catcher — on Baseball Prospectus’ list of 101 top prospects. In BP’s annual handbook, he is described as having “everything you want in a prospect, with plus defensive ability up the middle, a major league-caliber bat and elite makeup. While not necessarily a middle-of-the-order slugger, Swihart will hit enough to be a first-division regular, and the defensive profile grades out even better than his bat. He should be an everyday catcher for the better part of a decade and could be the best player on a contending team.” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington often refers to the “point of pain” that usually accompanies making a big deal, be it through free agency or a trade. Giving away such a talented player at such a premium position would be as painful as it gets. Right now, though, and likely for another year, Swihart’s future is a matter of projection. He batted .293 with 13 homers and an .810 OPS in 110 games last season, the final 18 of which came in Triple A. That’s promising but not quite Posey-esque. In his age-22 season, one year before reaching the majors, the San Francisco Giants star batted .325 with 18 homers and a .947 OPS.
Time for Red Sox to be open-minded about Cole Hamels deal
Boston Herald | Feb 12