Impending free-agent and All-Star pitcher Cole Hamels has been the center of trade speculation for weeks, and the Phillies' struggles are not helping combat any rumors.
Although the Phillies are sitting at a lowly 36-45 mark, 11 games behind the first-place Washington Nationals in the National League East, there's still plenty of time to turn the season around.
With the return of Chase Utley, and eventually Ryan Howard to the starting lineup, the Phillies will have the band back together for the second half of the regular season.
Phillies' general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has never been one to panic, and he shouldn't start to because of the team's poor performance thus far. Amaro has always found ways to keep or reacquire his team's most prized pieces, and Hamels is no different.
According to CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury, Amaro won't be jumping the gun on a potential Hamels deal:
“Our goal is the same,” Amaro said in a telephone interview Monday. “It hasn’t changed. All this rumor and speculation is a product of the time of the year and the way we’ve been playing. That’s how this works. Our goal has always been to keep Cole Hamels in our uniform for a long time and that hasn’t changed.”
Losing Hamels wouldn't just be detrimental to the team's immediate future, but it would signal the end of an era to one of the league's most loyal fanbases.
Rushing to deal Hamels for prospects by the trade deadline would be a message from the front office that it's time to rebuild a once great team. For a franchise that has flashed so much promise over the last five years, it feels far too early to deem this team dead.
It's understood that Hamels could very well walk out on the Phillies if they don't deal him at the deadline, but that's a risk Amaro should be willing to take.
Holding onto Hamels appears risky, but Amaro has shown in the past that he's aggressive when it comes to retaining his own players. Signing Hamels may require letting a player like Shane Victorino walk, but it's a price worth paying.
It's safe to assume that Hamels will cost a fortune to retain, but there's still hope that his loyalty to Philadelphia will bring him back long term.
With Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Hamels, the Phillies have composed one of Major League Baseball's elite starting rotations, and it would be a shame to see it all self-destruct after just two seasons.