LAKE BUENA VISTA, Flo. - You gotta love those Phightin' Phillies.
Early Tuesday morning, we saw this headline:
Phillies in market for starting pitching
That seems straightforward enough! And hardly surprising, considering the Phillies try to win every year and Roy Halladay's retiring and they've long been a pitching-first club. From the headlined story:
We are more focused on trying to add starting pitching depth more than anything else," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said from the Phillies' front-office suite yesterday afternoon.
Amaro has always put a priority on starting pitching.
It would be difficult to imagine a scenario where the Phillies don't add at least two more potential starting pitchers in the next 2 months.
Straightforward! The Phillies have only five starting pitchers on their 40-man roster. Yes, it's a pretty decent group: Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick, sophomore Jonathan Pettibone, and Cuban rookie Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. But it's hardly the Phillies' rotation of past glories. So, yes: Hamels and Lee probably are getting some help.
That was early this morning. Here's a headline from the middle of the morning:
Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels being shopped by Phillies
which was inspired by this:
The Phillies have indicated to other teams they are ready and willing to talk about Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels in trades.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 10, 2013
Uh, isn't that the opposite of adding starting pitching depth?
From the timeline, you might figure Ruben Amaro Jr. woke up at 4:30 in a cold feverish sweat, maybe after a terrible nightmare in which a giant mechanical Ryan Howard knocked down buildings and feasted at the Philadelphia zoo, and started wildly calling other GM's with the news that anybody is available. Papelbon. Hamels. Lee. Phanatic.
Which is all so very weird and interesting and what-the-helltastic, except you can't help thinking that once Amaro takes a hot shower and has a couple of espressos, there won't really be so many talks about Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. Because it's hard to imagine the Phillies just tanking a whole season or two. Not with their TV deal and their ballpark and their fan base. And while they're hardly favorites to win anything next season, they would become decided non-favorites without their two high-quality starting pitchers. Which Lee and Hamels most certainly are, despite their 22-22 combined record last season. Cliff Lee is still fantastic, and Cole Hamels did exactly what Cole Hamels always does.
Of course, Lee's going to make $75 million over the next three seasons, and Hamels at least $120 million over the next six. But one wonders what has changed. Those contracts aren't legacies. Lee got his three years ago, Hamels in the summer of 2012. Amaro was helming the ship for both of them. They seemed big and long then, and they seem big and long now. But to this point, Lee and Hamels have both pitched exactly as well as they were supposed to.
Which doesn't mean their contracts are a lot of fun. Maybe that's what Amaro was dreaming about.