Cole Hamels’ trade value shouldn’t change based on Saturday’s start, but it might

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On Friday afternoon, ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweeted the thoughts of an unnamed baseball executive, who said this of the Phillies’ starter Saturday versus the Cubs, Cole Hamels:

“He’s pitched in playoffs & WS. But for that front office this may be biggest start he’s ever had”

The implication, of course, is that Hamels’ trade value stands to change based on how well he performs at Wrigley Field on Saturday afternoon. The lefty heads into the start with 1,921 career innings over which he’s compiled a 3.31 ERA with a strikeout-to-walk ratio approaching four-to-one. Among starters who have accrued at least 500 innings since 2010, Hamels has the seventh-best ERA.

Hamels has a mediocre 3.91 ERA this season, however, and has been hammered in each of his last two starts. He allowed nine runs in 3 1/3 innings against the Giants on July 10, and five runs in three innings against the Marlins on Sunday. His track record over 1,921 innings should be weighted significantly more than his last 6 1/3 innings and what he does Saturday.

John Stolnis at SB Nation’s Phillies blog The Good Phight raises a good point. What his trade value should be contingent on is one thing, but what it actually is based on is another thing. And there many be a handful of front office types who will decide whether or not to pursue Hamels in a trade based on what they see him do against the likes of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Jorge Soler. It’s not good science and it’s not a good methodology on which to base important business decisions, but it’s used nevertheless. So that unnamed executive very well may be right: Hamels’ start against the Cubs on Saturday could be the most important start he’s made since helping the team win Game 5 of the 2008 World Series.