Cole Hamels expected the rumors. He heard them last summer, and when Ruben Amaro Jr. informed the veteran Phillies players last September of the team's future direction, a trade appeared even more possible.
He remains a Phillie, but during a Sunday interview with SiriusXM's MLB Network Radio, it is clear Hamels has considered the alternative. What is Hamels' perfect scenario for this winter?
"As close [to perfect] as I would like would be to go to a team that wants to win," Hamels said. "... Whenever you're in the postseason, that's what you play the game for."
Hamels retains some control over the situation; his no-trade clause allows him to block 21 teams each season. Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco are his most logical suitors. But the Phillies want a hefty prospect package in return for Hamels, which could delay a trade until July when there is more leverage.
The 30-year-old lefthander sounded resigned to pitching for a new team in 2015.
"It's unfortunate, but all great teams have that season or drought for a couple of years and then they start to rebuild," Hamels said. "I know I'm young enough to be able to go out there and play, and I love playing in the city of Philadelphia. Nothing but the best. The fans have been great; the organization has been great to me. But I do understand that baseball is a game that will go on, even after I'm done playing.
"So you have to put that in perspective and not really be too down about it. It's something, where if it does happen, I completely understand. Hopefully there will be a time when I can come back before my career is over. But, at the same time, it's a business. It's baseball."
Hamels praised Amaro, the team's general manager, for his openness during the whole process. Amaro met with some players in September before the season ended.
"We all understood," Hamels said. "We could kind of see it. The writing was on the wall. Guys will go out and play and try to win, and if it's for the Phillies — great, that's why we signed here. But if it's not, we completely understand. He has been completely upfront with us. It's not randomly one day, you're gone. He might have learned from the episode with Cliff [Lee] and Roy [Halladay] because I know that was just a spur-of-the-moment type of thing. But I think he's grown as a GM."
Hamels said geography could be a factor in any decision — he is from California and his wife, Heidi, is from Missouri — because people "tend to gravitate toward what you're used to." That, however, is not his priority.
"But whatever city is going after winning," Hamels said, "that could definitely change every sort of perspective and every desire because that trumps almost everything. Winning."
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