KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Cole Hamels has said all the right things, no matter how loud the trade speculation. Facing a horde of national media at Monday's All-Star Game festivities, he maintained his desire to stay in Philadelphia.

Hamels said the Phillies would have first right of refusal if he were to test the market. And he said he believes they will continue to contend.

Jonathan Papelbon, seated to Hamels' right in a large conference room, said what everyone else really is thinking about a potential Hamels trade.

"I don't necessarily know if our clubhouse would take that too well," Papelbon said. "But everybody in there knows it's a business. Sometimes things don't go the way you think they should go."

There is no clarity over which way the Hamels situation will go. Twenty-one days remain until the trade deadline, considered the date for resolution. Hamels rejected the notion that the next three weeks are critical to consummating a new contract.

"It's critical to see if we're going to win," he said.

But there could be temptation to trade Hamels for prospects if the Phillies do not believe a multiyear extension is realistic.

"That's more up to the organization," Hamels said. "All I know is I can play. I've been a Phillie forever, and it's always going to be a possibility I'll be a Phillie forever. I don't think the three weeks will matter as much."

Does he want to be a Phillie forever?

"Of course," Hamels said. "I grew up watching Tony Gwynn being a Padre forever. That says something about a person if they're able to do that. I know it's very hard in this day and age. It's something I grew up watching and hope to be able to emulate that. It's up to both sides to be able to do it."

So what's holding back a union?

"I don't know," Hamels said. He laughed. "My agent can answer that question."

His agent, John Boggs, has declined to make public comment on negotiations, much like Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. (Boggs, coincidentally, represented Gwynn for his entire career.)

The two sides have not engaged in substantive talks for some time, but the demands from both sides are clear. All it takes is one phone call. The Phillies almost certainly will make another effort to sign Hamels before July 31.

It is believed the sticking point lies mostly in the length of a potential deal and not dollars. The Phillies signed a 32-year-old Cliff Lee to a five-year deal with an option for a sixth. Hamels, 28, could seek at least six guaranteed years.

Hamels said that even if he were traded by the Phillies before the deadline, he still would listen to them in winter talks. That could merely be a negotiating tactic; Hamels often has spoken of his curiosity about how others view his value. Trading him would send a negative message, for sure.

The lefthander said he believes the Phillies are committed to winning in the coming years.

"It takes a long time to build up a fan base like they did," Hamels said. "Now they have it. You don't ever want to just let it wash away. So I think they're always going to honor that.

"They want to win. You can't do it forever. It's very hard. But you have to know how to be able to get back up and do it again. They're an organization that knows how to do that."

Until a resolution, the speculation will flourish.

"They've shown a great sign by signing the players they want," Hamels said.

And the Phillies may have three weeks to decide how much they want Hamels, who willingly has embraced his uncertain future.