It was one of the longest trade sagas in Red Sox history, and it didn't even end in a deal. But even with seven months and a change in careers later, Ruben Amaro Jr. is still talking about the trade that never sent Cole Hamels to Boston.
(If you're surprised by Bradley's inclusion on that list, just remember how far back the Hamels saga goes.)
Despite his reputation as one of the most incompetent general managers to helm a team in recent memory, Amaro did not end up completely botching the Hamels deal at the end of the day. He held out, and held out, and held out until finally the Texas Rangers put enough on the plate for the Phillies to bite. Is it the most they could have gotten? They certainly could have ended up paying Hamels for fewer years wasted away on a hopeless team, and could have jumpstarted their rebuild earlier, but they did not walk away empty-handed.
In fact, as it stands, the return for Hamels looks pretty good. Nick Williams and Jake Thompson are consensus top-100 prospects, and Jorge Alfaro sneaks onto a couple of the big lists. Jerad Eickhoff might even be a real thing. It's a fine return. A reasonable return. And not really the sort of return the Red Sox ever found themselves asked for.
Just to get it out of the way, Amaro's comment is pretty silly. Yeah, his scouts told him that players like Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts were strong targets. Other sources for that information: random people on the streets of Boston, or a Google search for "good Red Sox players." Bang up job on that one, Phillies. I don't know if you've heard, but there's a guy flying under the radar in LA right now, goes by the name of Trout. Might try to pry him away from the Angels before everyone else catches on.
So Amaro got those names, and he tunneled in. We heard it over and over again. About the lowest the Philadelphia demands ever seemed to go were "Swihart just to start," and when the Phillies were willing to look past the biggest names like Betts and Bogaerts, they expected to more than make up for it in terms of quantity. The Dodgers, for instance, were told they'd need to give up six top prospects if they wanted to hold out on a star like Seager or Urias.
Carlos Marmol signing could show off Brian Bannister's impact
Brian Bannister identified an issue that could fix Carlos Marmol. The hope is he can do the same for the other pitchers on the staff.
There was probably a trade to be found with the Red Sox that would have proved more lucrative than the one with Texas. The Red Sox, after all, were in serious need of a player like Hamels in 2015, but had plenty of depth to their farm system. The Phillies weren't getting Mookie or Xander, and maybe not even Swihart. But those same lists that place guys like Nick Williams and Jake Thompson highly also feature players like Rafael Devers and Anderson Espinoza higher still. Henry Owens would likely be right up there too if he were still eligible. And Manuel Margot, who also tends towards the top-50, was also on the table at the time.
Those, of course, are the players that Amaro should have wanted to hear about from his scouts. They're very likely players he did hear about from his scouts, in fact. They just weren't the biggest names, and Amaro was never willing to budge on landing at least one of those top prizes. If he'd come knocking with an offer of Hamels for Devers, Owens, Margot, and Espinoza back in March, do the Red Sox say no? It was the sort of deal Red Sox fans were speculating on, and the sort that it seemed Ben Cherington was trying to maneuver, so it's kind of hard to imagine they would turn it down.
It's a return that would likely leave Red Sox fans wincing a little more today than Rangers fans are over the loss of Williams,Thompson, et al. But in the face of demands of Betts, Bogaerts, and Swihart, it seems eminently reasonable, and it certainly takes talent to get talent. It likely would look like one of his best moves as Philadelphia's GM, and there's no reason to think he ever really considered it. No surprise, then, that he's suiting up to coach first base rather than getting ready to watch the results of another offseason's work in Philly.
Actually, I take that back. Ruben Amaro, First Base Coach will never not be surprising and weird. Are we still really sure that's happening?