The trade deadline is a week away and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. will say that there aren't any untouchables on his roster.
And he should say that, because saying anything else is simply bad business. But if the Phillies expect to compete at some point in the next 2 years - and that's the mindset of a front office that's against going the route of a 5-year rebuilding plan - you don't trade the only star on your roster who is in his prime.
You don't trade a 30-year-old who happens to be one of the best pitchers in baseball.
The Phillies do not want to trade Hamels and Hamels does not want to be traded. Both parties can only hope to find themselves at a better place in the National League East standings next year and beyond.
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Hamels was brilliant yesterday afternoon, helping the last-place Phillies avoid a four-game sweep. The homegrown lefthander came out strong from the get-go and never lost any steam for eight innings of a 2-1 win over first-place San Francisco.
"He's feeling good and he's feeling strong," manager Ryne Sandberg said of Hamels, who missed the first 3 weeks of the season with left biceps tendinitis.
Hamels held the Giants to one run on six hits. He struck out 10 and walked one.
Hamels (5-5, 2.72 ERA) threw a remarkable 90 of his 116 pitches for strikes.
"Right now," Sandberg said, "he's at the top of his game."
While some of the veterans around him wonder where they'll be playing next week, others play out what's likely their final contract and others see playing time decreased, Hamels continues to develop as a bona-fide top-of-the-rotation starter. He's no longer the young World Series MVP or the immature pitcher learning the ropes from Jamie Moyer and Roy Halladay.
He's now the pitcher leading the way every fifth day.
"He really has been consistent," Sandberg said. "He has pitched like an ace."
For the 13th time in 18 starts, Hamels pitched at least seven innings. But his durability was only outdone by his strength: Hamels used a pair of 95 mph fastballs to strike out Hunter Pence twice (he got Pence a third time on a changeup) and was still able to dial up 95 on his 113th pitch, an at-bat that ended with Michael Morse becoming his 10th strikeout victim.
"I think it is just workouts that I've been able to do in spring training and throughout the season are starting to kick in and my strength is hanging around," Hamels said of his uptick in velocity. "Just change your routine just enough where everything stays loose but strong. And it's just about going out there and [being] able to compete and have a little extra adrenaline and anger, trying to prove a point."
What point is that, Cole?
"I think losing the past three games, you just want to go out there and win," Hamels said.
Given the way the Phillies have played since Hamels decided to sign a 6-year, $144 million contract extension 2 years ago today, it's worth wondering if Hamels has any buyer's remorse. He may be pitching angry a lot on a team that loses far more often than it wins.
But having grown up as a minor leaguer and major leaguer during what was arguably the best era in the history of the Phillies, Hamels doesn't have any regrets. He expects the team to be a winner again, and soon.
"I enjoy pitching here," Hamels said. "All of the sellouts and everything that the fans and the organization were able to do for all of us made it an easy decision, because it is so much fun to come to this ballpark and win. That's what I was expecting and what I'm trying to still do."
Yesterday, Hamels lost out in his bid for his first shutout of the season in the fifth inning, when Ehire Adrianza jumped on a first-pitch fastball and knocked a game-tying single to centerfield. But in the bottom half of the inning, Chase Utley gave Hamels the lead back with an RBI single to center.
Hamels responded by retiring nine of the last 11 batters he faced before handing the ball over to Jonathan Papelbon, who converted his 24th save without any of the drama from the previous two nights.
"For him to go through the meat of the order the way he did in the eighth," Sandberg said of Hamels, "it really seemed like he turned it up a notch."
Like Hamels, the Phillies do not have any regrets with the richest contract in franchise history. In the 2 calendar years since the deal was completed, Hamels has a 3.18 ERA in 63 games.
The Phillies have scored two runs or fewer for Hamels in 21 of those 63 games. But in back-to-back starts, Hamels has made that work, too, guiding the Phillies to a pair of 2-1 victories.
In the last five seasons, since the beginning of 2010, Hamels has a 3.08 ERA in 146 starts. Only Clayton Kershaw (2.32), Felix Hernandez (2.82), Jered Weaver (2.91), Cliff Lee (2.95) and David Price (3.03) have been better; and, among those five pitchers, only Kershaw, Hernandez and Price have thrown more innings than Hamels.
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