Every time a bell rings, Cole Hamels gets another $10 million added on the contract he'll sign at some point before next Opening Day.
Really, Philadelphia is one of the few places on Earth where Cole Hamels wouldn't be the ace of his staff. In fact, you can make an argument that he is the ace of this staff. Check out the table below, which features the numbers of each of the Phillies' top four starters over the last calendar year (May 13, 2011 through May 13, 2012). Specifically, check out Hamels' numbers as compared to Roy Halladay: negligible difference in ERA, slightly more strikeouts-per-nine and walks-per-nine, and slightly fewer innings, albeit in one less start. And check out that WHIP (walks+hits/innings).
The one category Hamels hold a decided advantage? He's only 28, giving him at least five years on Lee and seven years on Halladay. Think about that: Hamels could sign a seven-year deal like the ones C.C. Sabathia and Johan Santana signed and be the same age as Halladay is now when he is in the final year of that deal. So keep that in mind when you hear Ruben Amaro Jr. talk about the potential of being a seller at the trade deadline.
Which makes more sense: trading six months of 28-year-old Hamels in exchange for prospects and keeping 33-year-old Lee for at least three more seasons, or trading 3.5 years of Lee for prospects and then re-signing Hamels, who will be younger than Lee is now for the first five years of his next contract.
Lee does have a no trade clause, but my understanding is that it is not a full no trade clause. And speaking of no trade clauses, guess who received a full no-trade clause in his deal? Matt Cain, whose five-year, $112.5 million contract is often mentioned as the bare minimum that Hamels will receive. The Phillies don't like full no trade clauses. I can't recall them giving one out since I have been on the beat. So that's another potential sticking point.
That being said, it would still take a lot of losing to push the Phillies to the point of trading away any of their pitchers. At this point, I'd circle Shane Victorino as the first to head to the auction block if Amaro does make the deicision to sell. Even then, we're a long way from that.