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Phillies performing 'intensive homework' on Dodgers farm system

(Image by Rob Tornoe)
(Image by Rob Tornoe)Read moreRob Tornoe /

Cole Hamels remains the Phillies' top trade asset this offseason. Just today, Jonah Keri of Grantland ranked him among the game's most valuable assets:

"The 30-year-old left-hander (who turns 31 on December 27) has been one of the game's best pitchers for the better part of a decade, ranking fifth in innings pitched, fourth in strikeouts, and ninth in WAR since 2007. He's durable, he pounds the strike zone, and he carries virtually no platoon split, meaning the Sox or any other team could trade for him without worrying about opponents stacking their lineups with right-handed hitters."

Ruben Amaro has hinted that Hamels could be both a great piece to build around, and a great commodity to ship out in exchange for pieces with which to build. He is incredibly central to whatever the Phillies are planning. It is still very early in the offseason, and given Hamels' position as a keystone, the Phillies are wise to not do anything rash with their most valuable piece.

But wheels are in motion, regardless of the direction in which they spin. Bob Nightengale of USA Today writes that in preparation for a potential Cole Hamels trade, the Phillies are scrutinizing the Dodgers' farm system, from which names like Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, and Julio Urias stand out - and although L.A. is not likely enthusiastic about parting with even one of their top young potential stars, they should be aware of Hamels' price tag.

Then there is Hamels' no-trade clause, which was once widespread, but he was reportedly ready to lift it for a trade to the Red Sox and by Amaro's admission, Hamels is game for anything. His link to the Dodgers has been endless and this exact rumor has existed since the Phillies began to go downhill.

It's due diligence, and it's got to be widespread at this point. Jon Lester is still out there, with teams ike the Cubs and Giants circling him. Max Scherzer is a free agent as well, and the A's have made Jeff Samardzija available for trade. There are other options out there, and the market for frontline starters has yet to be set for the offseason.