SAN DIEGO - Images of Cole Hamels in red pinstripes flashed Monday afternoon on a TV behind Ruben Amaro Jr. in the Phillies' sixth-floor hotel suite that doubles as team headquarters this week. Network analysts dealt Hamels to Boston during a "Create-a-Trade" segment.
Amaro turned around. The embattled general manager chuckled.
"We did it," he said. "It's done."
Welcome to baseball's annual winter meetings, a convention that doubles as fantasy wonderland for some. But for Amaro, it is a sensitive time. He defended his strategy - often assailed by anonymous executives - and maintained that the Phillies have not made unreasonable trade demands for their veteran players.
"That's a bunch of malarkey as far as I'm concerned," Amaro said. "Frankly, we've done very little asking; we've done a lot of listening. That's why that strikes me as interesting that people would say that."
When asked whether he could make a trade this week, Amaro said, "No idea." His entire roster is available; other teams have balked so far.
"We have pretty good players," Amaro said. "Everybody kind of thinks we don't have good players, but we have some of the best middle-of-the-infield players . . ."
Those players, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, have full no-trade rights and expect to remain in Philadelphia.
"But we had an outstanding rightfielder this year," said Amaro, who referenced Marlon Byrd. "Everybody is kind of in play."
His prized possession, Hamels, is baseball's favorite trade rumor. That chatter could gain some focus once free agent Jon Lester - described by Amaro as "a little bit of a linchpin" - signs. Lester could sign with a team "no later than" Tuesday, ESPN.com reported Monday. The Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, and Giants are all rumored to have interest in the lefthander. Those teams have identified Hamels as a backup plan.
The Phillies, Amaro said, have monitored the Lester sweepstakes in preparation for the corresponding shuffle. They have done extensive background work on Boston and Los Angeles prospects, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation. If San Francisco signs Lester, that would leave three powerful teams seeking an ace pitcher. With more competition for Hamels, Amaro has a better chance at extracting top prospects.
"Some people think we're feeling pressured and have to do something," Amaro said. "That's not how we're going to operate. I think it's important to change some things around. We don't have to do it if it's going to be detrimental to us. It's not going to be helpful."
Their best match in a Hamels deal could be with the Dodgers, according to a handful of executives and scouts polled Monday. All teams are reluctant to deal elite prospects, but Boston is said to be especially stingy. The Phillies, desperate for outfield reinforcements, could target outfielder Joc Pederson in a trade with Los Angeles.
The Dodgers could team Hamels with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke to form the game's most powerful rotation trio. Andrew Friedman, unable for years in Tampa Bay to make this type of trade, could make his first big splash as Dodgers president of baseball operations by obtaining Hamels.
Then again, there are other pitchers available through free agency and trades at a lesser cost. Amaro said he was confident there can be significant change for the Phillies, which he mandated in September. There were "three or four" trades on the table Monday, but none to his liking. What if there is never an offer appealing enough to Amaro?
"That's not something I really think about that much," he said.