The Phillies' offseason can be summed up in one word, "future." They have clearly shown that they want to rebuild their team for the future, trading Marlon Byrd, Jimmy Rollins, and Antonio Bastardo all for prospects as they look to begin their plans for their next contending team.
Cole Hamels, a 31-year-old lefty from San Diego, is by far the Phillies best trade piece. He posted a 2.46 ERA last season in 204 2/3 innings pitched, and if he had racked up more wins, he could have gotten more serious Cy Young award contention. Considering Hamels is still relatively young and is signed to a four-year deal with an option for a fifth year, he is coveted by many teams.
The Phillies were thought to have wanted to unload Hamels at some point this offseason and at points it seemed like something could be in the works. November and December have come and gone, and Hamels is still in a Phillies uniform. Nevertheless, from a team standpoint, Hamels should still be in a Phillies uniform by July, even if the demand is high.
First, there is a lot of pitching already on the market. David Price, Max Scherzer, and James Shields are other pitchers that are either available through trade or through signing. While it will take a lot to get any of the three of them, there are other options on the table for teams to pursue. Hamels is owed $100 million guaranteed over the next four years, which would be in the range of Shields' deal to begin with. It would also take a lot of prospects to get back in return. That is not something teams want.
The Phillies asking price is still very high for Hamels, according to reports. It could take multiple top prospects and one or two low-level prospects as well. The Phillies likely will not be able to get this type of deal now in the offseason.
Look at it this way; Jeff Samardzija was traded to the Oakland Athletics this past July (along with Jason Hammel) for Addison Russell, Billy McKinney, and Dan Straily. Then, this offseason, Samardzija was dealt to the White Sox (with Michael Ynoa) for Rangel Ravelo, Chris Bassitt, Josh Phegley and Marcus Semien. The Athletics got nobody even in the realm of Russell in dealing him this offseason.
This is a perfect representation showing how teams are more desperate at the trade deadline. A contending team is willing to give up more prospects in order to "get them over the hump." In the offseason, every team is 0-0, and has a fresh start. There is an idea of who could be contending next season, but nothing is set in stone until it happens.
If the Phillies want their rebuilding to take full flight, they need to hold on to a veteran and keep Cole Hamels in 2015. If everything goes as planned, his value will be higher at the trade deadline than it is now. There will be less pitching on the market, plus it is rare that a team can find a pitcher with three years of control at the deadline. The Phillies need to deal Cole Hamels in July.