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Cubs willing to trade for Cole Hamels

The Cubs, a team making most of the noise early in the offseason, are sniffing around Cole Hamels.

With their new manager in place in Joe Maddon, the Cubs are off to the races.

Earlier today, it was mentioned that they were targeting Pirates catcher Russell Martin, but they haven't stopped there. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports is now saying that the Cubs are looking to make a trade for Cole Hamels.

The Phillies have plenty of players they would love to trade, but whose contracts make them less attractive (Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says that thus far, the team's most popular trade target is outfielder Marlon Byrd.

Even mainstays like Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are available for the right price. But Hamels is the one player whose presence makes sense as the center of a rebuilding team, or as trade bait for a big return.

Hamels has more appeal than some of the top pitching on the free agent market, like Jon Lester and Max Scherzer, as he is only owed $96 million over the next four years. Lester will get a big pay day somewhere, and Scherzer turned down a $144 million offer from Detroit, confident he could get more somewhere else.

The Cubs have been linked to Lester and Scherzer as well, as they do not seem ready to spend this offseason sitting still. Neither Hamels nor Lester would cost the Cubs a draft pick; the same cannot be said for Scherzer.

Hamels, who will turn 31 in December, had another great year in 2014, despite a last place team around him, with a 2.46 ERA (the lowest of his career) and 198 strikesouts, 59 walks, 8.7 SO/9, and 6.6 WAR over 204.2 innings pitched. However, he had not included Chicago on the list of teams to which he'd accept a trade - though he redrafted that list recently.

The Cubs' farm system was ranked No. 2 this past February by Baseball Prospectus. The multiple players that a Hamels trade could bring back for the Phillies would go a long way toward the Phillies' rebuilding blueprints.

This will not be the last time Hamels' name comes up in a potential trade this winter, and the Cubs are a team likely to cast a wide net.