The Phillies are still talking about a Cole Hamels trade with a half-dozen teams, one of them the Red Sox. Boston and Philly have one major stumbling block they're still yet to leap in their discussions, though, and it's catching prospect Blake Swihart, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale. The Phillies want the 23-year-old, who is regarded as the top catching prospect in the game and a future all-star, if they're to give up their ace who is signed to a highly reasonable five-year, $110 million deal. It's actually for four and $96 million, but he'd have to waive his no-trade clause to come to Boston, and that'll require preemptively picking up his option.
Asking for Swihart makes a lot of sense for the Phillies, and you can't really hold it against them. Hamels is tremendous, and precisely the ace the Red Sox don't have on their roster. Boston does have five starting pitchers, however, and while there could be holes in their rotation, there is also plenty of upside and their top pitching prospects aren't all that far off. They might want to hold on to their money to attempt to extend Rick Porcello or Justin Masterson, or to go after another productive starter on next year's free agent market, rather than trade for Hamels (or sign free agent James Shields). At least, they'd prefer to do that if the cost of acquiring Hamels is someone like Swihart, who could end up being a key piece on the Red Sox as soon as 2016, and maybe even a significant core player after that.
The 2015 Red Sox would be better with Cole Hamels. The 2016 Red Sox could be, too. If Swihart grows up to become what many expect him to be, however, he might be a more valuable piece than Hamels after that, and it's worth remembering that it's not as if Swihart would be all Boston gives up. You can bet there would be a significant pitching prospect and additional pieces tossed in to the deal as well, and Boston would be paying Hamels' $22 million average annual value on top of that. It's also not entirely about having Swihart or Hamels in the future -- it's about what else you can do with the pieces you hold on to. If the Sox keep Swihart and move other prospects for a different pitcher in July or next winter, they don't have Hamels, but they do have Swihart and whatever those other players brought back.
Yes, Swihart could turn out to be just okay, or not even develop to that point, so there is a huge risk in hanging on to him as opposed to dealing him for a more established piece like Hamels. Ignoring that risk is irresponsible, and it would be much more difficult to swallow the Sox saying no if they had been a little less busy with rebuilding their rotation. There is enough legitimate promise in the five starters they have, though, that keeping Swihart around isn't an unnecessary risk. It's still a risk, though.
So, just as it's not silly for the Phillies to want Swihart to ensure they get something major back for their ace, it's not goofy for the Sox to balk at parting with him along with others because they think they have other options both now and down the road. Both sides are justified in their part of this stare down, and chances are good it's going to continue until Boston convinces the Phillies to trade Cliff Lee for far less come July. Or, you know, whatever they hope to do instead of acquire Hamels.