Forget Cole Hamels ... How About A Cliff Lee Trade?

Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies pitchers (R to L) Roy Halladay (34) Joe Blanton (56) Cole Hamels (35) and Cliff Lee (33) watch the game from the dugout during the ninth inning against the Houston Astros at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Astros 4-3 in 10 innings. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Should the Phillies explore a Cliff Lee trade? Well, no, but here's why you'd even ask such a stupid question.

This is where that big honking title at the top betrays what should be a Shyamalanian twist toward the end of the article. Instead, you clicked on a link expecting something stupid about trading Cliff Lee. And now you're going to get it. But you've already tuned out because it's a stupid idea. I blame the headline. But there's some thought behind this, so bear with me. This isn't a slideshow of the HOT, COST-CONTROLLED PROSPECTS the Phillies could get, I promise.

First note: We know that Ruben Amaro might be willing to trade Cliff Lee even when he expects to contend the following season. He's done it already. That's how we entered the Tyson Gillies era in the first place.

More than that, though, this has to do with the Cole Hamels rumors. They're back. They aren't going anywhere. Buster Olney tweeted thusly:

And that makes sense. It means that a Cole Hamels trade is extremely unlikely, as teams rarely give up the farm for a three-month rental these days. If there's a comp for Hamels' trade value, it might be Carlos Beltran last year. Beltran brought Zack Wheeler back for the Mets -- a top-50 pitching prospect with ace potential. If the Phillies want a couple of those prospects, they probably aren't going to get them.

It would be silly to trade Hamels for less, too. The Phillies are still in a win-now mode for next season. Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard aren't getting younger, and Chase Utley's knees aren't getting less disintegrationy. Trading Hamels would be a great way to jettison the youngest and healthiest star on a team that isn't planning to give up on next season. The extra three months of negotiations are probably worth whatever prospects the Phillies could get back, if only because the Phillies need Hamels if they're going to contend with this bunch. And there are about 150 million reasons why the Phillies should still try for short-term success.

However, if the front-office types and/or owners are convinced they can't re-sign Hamels, or if someone who matters is pushing the "we gotta get something, can't let him go for nothing, gotta get something, gotta get anything for him" mindset on July 31, well, that changes things. I doubt that'll be the case. Doubt that's what anyone is thinking in Citizen's Bank Park. But I don't trust Ruben Amaro to be normal, and you can't predict when owners are going to get meddling or jittery.

If Hamels has to go, it's time to start thinking about the risk/reward involved with trading Cliff Lee. Does the 4.13 ERA and 0-5 record mean that something's wrong? Nah. The stats that matter suggest that Lee is just unlucky. Other teams know that. And considering that he's locked up for the next three years, he still has a good amount of trade value. Trading him in combination with Hamels and whoever else isn't nailed down would get that prospect haul that they're asking for right now.

Trading Cole Hamels is a stupid idea for the Phillies. But if you're going stupid, don't dip your toes in it. Cannonball into it. The 2013 Phillies will have just about zero use for a prospect or two in the place of Hamels, so the only way a trade makes sense is if it's the start of a rebuild. Hamels and Victorino. Lee. Hell, Pence, too. See if anyone will bite on Rollins' contract. Chooch? Chooch. Everything must go! No reasonable offer will be refused!

Which is all a long-winded way of pointing out that the Phillies probably aren't trading Cole Hamels. He's far, far too important to a team that doesn't have a lot of steady, bankable players in place for next season. But you didn't want to read another article about the likelihood of Cole Hamels trade, and I at least wanted to pretend that I wasn't writing one. Turns out there was a Shyamalanian twist to the article after all! It it was as good as the one in The Village. Sorry about that.

If you look up in February, though, and Hamels is on the Dodgers, with his roster spot on the Phillies taken by Kip Wells or something, I'll probably dust off this one again. That's how important Hamels is to the Phillies' hopes in 2013. And he shouldn't be going anywhere.

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