The longest-running trade saga in recent Red Sox memory might be coming to an end, as it seems the Red Sox are out of the running for Cole Hamels due to the pitcher's no-trade clause. Per Rob Bradford of WEEI:
According to one major league source, Hamels' no-trade clause — that prevents the Phillies from dealing the 31-year-old to a list teams, one of them being the Red Sox — continues to be a roadblock when it comes to the Sox acquiring the lefty. It seemingly has been an issue throughout the team's pursuit of Hamels.
Typically, these no-trade clauses are less a matter of preventing trades than they are of giving a player leverage when they would be traded. In Hamels' case, for instance, it's long been assumed he would force any team acquiring him (from his no-trade list) to pick up his option year in the process. An extra year at the end of Hamels' contract at full price would make him somewhat less attractive, explaining how it might prove "an issue" even back in winter and spring, though at the time the demands of Ruben Amaro Jr. in talent were considered the bigger problem.
Now, though? Now Cole Hamels is one of the most attractive trade targets on the market. And now that means he can actually be selective. Where before Hamels might have used his no-trade clause for leverage and an option year, now he can use it to avoid being sent to Boston to waste two months away in a lost season before pitching his first meaningful game in 2016.
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Bradford does mention that the clause might prove an issue for the Astros as well, which makes slightly less sense given their position in the AL West. But again, it really comes down to the fact that Cole Hamels can very likely have his cake and eat it too in this situation. If the Astros aren't willing to pick up his option year, he can make the Phillies keep shopping around until they find someone who will both make the playoffs and guarantee Hamels his money. What, after all, does he have to lose? Going from Philadelphia to Boston now is no better than going in the offseason, and if push comes to shove and the Phillies can't find a perfect partner, he can drop his issues with a team like Houston and go make a playoff push.
Really, the only trade that is both believable from a front-office standpoint and largely ruled out by the no-trade clause is a trade to Boston. The Red Sox are the only team that's at once completely out of it and still thoroughly interested in a Hamels deal if the price is right. Chances are with so many teams interested in taking Hamels with them into the playoffs, there would still be no way the Sox would win a bidding war. But with Hamels having his say, it's just about impossible to imagine he'll make his way to Boston.