FORT MYERS, Fla. - Cole Hamels will almost certainly take the mound in a Phillies uniform on Opening Day, 2 weeks from yesterday, at Citizens Bank Park against the Boston Red Sox.
Spring training trades - particularly spring training blockbuster trades - are extremely rare. After holding firm this winter, the Phillies are probably best suited to wait until early in the summer, when at least a handful of teams will have interest in acquiring a pitcher of Hamels' ability before the trade deadline.
There are certainly fan bases ready to immediately welcome Hamels with open arms. The Texas Rangers lost Yu Darvish for the season earlier this month; the Los Angeles Dodgers have seen two lefthanders, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Erik Bedard, become injured in the last 5 days.
There are also some opposing players who would rather see Hamels in their uniform, rather than on the mound against them in less than 2 weeks.
"I'd love to see him any time," Shane Victorino said after taking batting practice on Sunday, before his Red Sox hosted the Phillies at JetBlue Park.
The 34-year-old Victorino has more than 10 years of big-league experience, though. He was smart enough to qualify his comments, so they are not misconstrued as a criticism of his current teammates.
"I'm also happy with the guys we've got - I respect them," the former Phillies outfielder said, recalling that the team he won a World Series with in Philadelphia certainly wasn't one stacked with a rotation of aces.
But the 2008 Phillies did have a certain lefthander who helped put the team over the top, too. While Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton were certainly serviceable, Hamels was the one who won four of his five postseason starts that October, sporting a 1.80 ERA.
Hamels did that as a 24-year-old in his second full big-league season. While he certainly has put some mileage on his arm since, Hamels, now 31, is a more well-rounded pitcher than he was, then, too.
Hamels had a career-best 2.46 ERA last season. He has reeled off seven straight seasons with 30 or more starts. In the last 5 years, Hamels' 3.00 ERA is the fourth best in baseball (among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched).
These aren't things you need to tell Victorino.
While some in the Red Sox front office reportedly aren't interested in talking about any deal that would involve the likes of switch-hitting catching prospect Blake Swihart or fleet-footed rookie centerfielder Mookie Betts, Victorino doesn't have to be sold. He'll take the finished product over the developing player.
"Any time you can get a No. 1, as I told these guys - not the front office, but the players - any time you can go get a guy in my opinion who is established, who has done it [you do it]," Victorino said. "And I understand you don't want to give up this prospect or that prospect. You're hoping this guy becomes a Cole Hamels. Hoping. Oh wait, that guy is there now. And even as a hitter. Why would you hope that guy becomes this hitter, when you have it right now? And I understand there's a financial side. And there's a bigger picture. But like I said, at the end of the day, it's right here in front of you. Why are you hoping?"
Victorino, of course, has been in this situation before.
In 2009, when Hamels wasn't ever quite himself, and when Myers was injured and Moyer had an ERA hovering close to 5.00, the Phillies needed pitching. They signed Pedro Martinez over the All-Star break and parted with four prospects to get Cliff Lee prior to the deadline.
Lee helped the Phillies reach the World Series, and gave them their best chance to win it, too, by beating the Yankees twice. The Phillies again parted with prospects when they traded for Roy Halladay that winter . . . and then for Roy Oswalt the next summer.
Carlos Carrasco finally came into his own late last summer, but . . .
"Ehh," Victorino said.
Veteran major league players aren't general managers for a reason. They would always mortgage a piece (or four) of the future to maximize their chance of winning now.
And although the Phillies are in the position they're in today in part because they lack major league-ready prospects - the front office may have overdone it in some of its trades, particularly the first Hunter Pence deal - it's difficult to look back with regret on the deals that brought proven pitchers to their roster between 2009-11.
"That's why they're called prospects," Victorino said. "And I understand the future is important, but for an organization - and anybody, any organization, not just here [with the Red Sox] - I'm going to give up, maybe not everybody, but I'm going to give up 2-3 pieces that I think are necessary for a certain guy. Because it warrants it. This guy is established."