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Phillies scouting Salem Red Sox as Cole Hamels sweepstakes gains momentum

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With the Red Sox rotation collectively doing their best Allen Webster impression, the Phillies have turned their eyes back to Boston's farm system.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Charlie Manuel is headed to Virginia this week to scout the Salem Red Sox, home of one of Boston's top young prospects in Manuel Margot, per David Murphy of Philly.com. This at a time when teams around the league are running into unexpected problems on the mound, putting the services of Cole Hamels in perhaps greater demand than ever before.

It's certainly no surprise that the Red Sox are having some issues with their rotation. Instead, the surprise comes in just how severe those issues are. Three weeks into the season, and just about every starting pitcher is pushing his worst-case scenario. The Sox have accounted for giant chunks of Major League Baseball's disaster starts, whether you want to measure that by only lasting three innings, allowing five-plus runs, or both. The peripherals have been encouraging, but things like strikeouts can provide only so much ccomfort in the face of 18-7 losses.

Amusingly enough, though, if Boston's struggles have proven anything, it's that an ace is the least of their concerns. If they were to trade for Cole Hamels tomorrow, their rotation would be Cole Hamels up front...and four guys with an ERA of 4.94 or higher.

Still, if Boston's rotation is going to be fixed, it has to start somewhere. And that certainly could mean a trade for Cole Hamels. Just don't expect the Red Sox to budge on their offseason sticking points: no Betts, no Swihart. Betts has been inconsistent in April, but has been the victim of more than his fair share of hard hit outs, and might well be turning a corner even in that department. And Blake Swihart has only gotten more important with Christian Vazquez undergoing Tommy John Surgery.

The story, then, remains the same as always: if the Phillies can find enough value outside of the best-of-the-best, the Red Sox will be willing to listen. Jon Heyman cites a good few possibilities: Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Eduardo Rodriguez, Garin Cecchini, and the aforementioned Manuel Margot. The Red Sox would likely be reluctant to part with their Triple-A pitching, particularly Johnson and Rodriguez since either one could be called on at any moment now to make their way up to Boston to try to help save the rotation themselves and, as mentioned before, the Red Sox will need more than just Cole Hamels to plug this leak. But Henry Owens is a little further away, Garin Cecchini is not nearly so important a figure in Boston's plans as he once was, and if Manuel Margot is an exciting prospect, the Red Sox have plenty of position players to go around at the moment.

Really, though, I suspect at the end of the day the Red Sox are still just not the best match for the Phillies. Not yet. Ben Cherington and co. will not be willing to admit total defeat on their rotation so long as those peripherals are the way they are, and even if they did, they would not be looking for a Cole Hamels solution so much as two or three mid-level pitchers, some from within, some from without. These Red Sox, after all, don't need the ability to hold opponents to one run nearly so much as they need the ability to keep them from recovering from four-run deficits in the blink of an eye. Cole Hamels is better suited to a team that needs to win 1-0 or 2-1, since just about anyone can win 8-5.

Except, apparently, the five men in Boston.