Hamels Swollen Elbow Scraps Potential Trade

With the return of swelling in Cole Hamels elbow, the future of the Phillies top prospect appears slightly blurred. Hamels' shutdown also blurred the potential for a major trade that the Phillies were working on to solidify their lineup. Nothing was definite, but the Phillies had allowed at least the thought of dealing Hamels to enter their collective minds, because they thought they had found a deal that would make moving Hamels worth the cost.

When Cole Hamels first experienced some swelling and pain in his left elbow, the Phillies may have cringed a little, but their concern didn't run too deep. If anything, they were more upset with the fact that Hamels hid the injury because he wanted to continue pitching in the major league camp. The front office had already been duly impressed with Hamels and he didn't need to do anything more in major league camp than show up for them to remain high on the man that many considered to be their top prospect.

While the Phillies put on a good face about the setback and had only minor concerns, some started to toy with the idea that Hamels should perhaps come off the list of untouchable prospects. After all, Hamels had suffered a broken bone in his pitching arm in high school and now, there was swelling in the elbow. Some figured that the best time to move Hamels was now.

That theory led to the Phillies at least conceding that if they could find the right deal, trading Hamels could at least be considered. Still, the deal would have to be one that made a lot of sense for the Phillies and many in the front office weren't quite sure that the right opportunity would really ever come along.

As Marlon Byrd continued to struggle into early June, the Phillies realized that center field was a position they would need to address. Initially, names like Steve Finley and Kenny Lofton came up. Even Rickey Henderson was mentioned a time or two. Then, the Phillies looked just east of their Florida home in Clearwater. There, perched proudly in the Devil Rays center field spot was young Carl Crawford. The fact that Crawford is so young, talented and cheap, meant that the D'Rays might not want to part with him. When the Phillies looked deeper, they realized that Tampa might consider moving Crawford to make room for even younger and perhaps even more talented B.J. Upton. It is really Upton, not Byrd that many in the D'Rays brain trust consider to be the center fielder of the future for Tampa. That fact made Crawford potentially available; in the right deal.

Initially, the Phillies of course, low-balled the names that they were throwing around to Tampa. Marlon Byrd, Josh Hancock, potentially, Ryan Madson and a few other names came up. Then, things got serious when Tampa asked about Hamels and the Phillies didn't hang up the phone. Just possibly, the right deal had come along for both clubs. Still, other names went back and forth. Brett Myers. Ryan Howard. Jake Blalock. Word is that the talks were starting to get past preliminary stages.

Before long, Phillies scouts were regulars at Devil Rays major league and minor league games. Devil Rays scouts filled seats to watch the Phillies and their minor league clubs as well. Carl Crawford was on the table and finally, the Phillies told Tampa that Hamels might be available. Just as the D'Rays brass were swarming in Clearwater, Cole Hamels wound up in the trainer's room. When Hamels was shut down, some of the momentum of the deal went with him.

Hamels injury hasn't completely derailed talks of a trade between the Phillies and Devil Rays. Now though, the Devil Rays are seemingly focused on Brett Myers as part of the deal. The Phillies would prefer not to make that move, especially with Vicente Padilla and Randy Wolf both on the DL. The fact that Padilla experienced pain in his right elbow in his rehab start will make trading Myers even more of a remote possibility. Gavin Floyd is perhaps the only completely untouchable prospect in the system, so he's out of any trade discussions. Hamels elbow makes him less attractive to Tampa Bay - and other teams for that matter - so getting a deal done with the D'Rays will be very tough. Tampa Bay is insisting on pitching and the Phillies had blinked and made Hamels available. With Floyd and Myers out of the picture, the other possibility is Keith Bucktrot. Bucktrot doesn't come with quite the same pedigree as Hamels, so other names would have to be thrown into the mix.

The Phillies talks with Tampa Bay don't stop with Crawford. The Phillies are interested in AAA starter Jason Standridge. It was thought that if the Phillies included Hamels, Tampa Bay might include Standridge as part of the package to lessen the blow of giving up Hamels in the trade. Now, the Phillies must decide if either Gavin Floyd, Jason Standridge or someone already in the organization could come up to the majors and take over in the starting rotation if the Phillies did include Brett Myers in a deal for Crawford. For now, the Phillies don't believe that Myers is replaceable, especially with the injuries to the pitching staff.

The hunt for a center fielder will heat up with Byrd's demotion to AAA. For now, the scenarios are endless. The Phillies insist that they haven't given up on Byrd and that the best case scenario is that he heads to Scranton, gets himself straightened out and comes back to Philadelphia in a blaze of glory. Still, the Phillies will continue to look at Finley, Lofton, Brad Wilkerson, Crawford and perhaps even other trade targets to fill the center field spot. As far as the Phillies are concerned though, Crawford is the prime target and they haven't given up on the possibility of making him a Phillie before too long.

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