- Jim Bowden, ESPN Insider
Cole Hamels has the most trade value of any player believed to be on the trade market. He's a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher who already has had postseason success, and that type of pitcher is extremely coveted by contending teams. In addition, he's signed for three more years (beyond this season), with a team option for 2019, at approximately $23.5 million per season. This makes him even more valuable, because on the open market, he'd probably get six or seven years at $26-28 million per season.
The Johnny Cueto trade (from Cincinnati to Kansas City) set the market price for No. 1 starters, as the Reds received three good pitching prospects in Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed; all three have good upside and should reach the big leagues. But the difference between Cueto and Hamels is that Cueto is merely a two-plus-month rental; he's expected to become a free agent this offseason. So if the return for two to three months of Cueto is three good future major leaguers, then what is Hamels worth? I'll give it my best guess, linking five potential suitors to him:
1. Chicago Cubs
2½ games behind second NL wild-card spot
Hamels for ... LF Billy McKinney, RHP C.J. Edwards, CF Albert Almora
The Phillies probably would start by asking for Jorge Soler, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber or Javier Baez, but they would be told thanks but no thanks. The Cubs really don't have to make this type of trade this year, because they're built more for the next two seasons. They can wait until the offseason and tap into free agency again, considering the number of quality options that will be available, from David Price to Jordan Zimmermann to Cueto. That said, if they felt Hamels and his favorable contract (cost and length) was too good to pass up, then a trade of McKinney and Almora, both outfield prospects, and Edwards, a starting pitcher, probably makes sense.
In the long term, the Cubs probably will put Kris Bryant in right field and Soler in left, making McKinney expendable. Almora is an above-average center fielder, but his bat hasn't come along as quickly as the team would hope, and Edwards is their best pitching prospect.