Yes, you should trade for Cole Hamels

Wednesday, a couple of my esteemed colleagues reported that the St. Louis Cardinals, despite boasting one of the depthier depth charts in the majors, are considering adding a top-notch starting pitcher to their rotation this winter. How top-notch?

If I said Max Scherzer, David Price, and Cole Hamels, is that something that would interest you?

Well, I want to focus on just Hamels, because we’ve got specific names here that allow me to … well, to focus on:

The Cardinals’ biggest problem, perhaps, would be satisfying the Phillies.

To secure Hamels, the Cardinals likely would need to part with (Carlos) Martinez or (Marco) Gonzales as well as an outfielder such as Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty (the Phillies have long coveted Peter Bourjos as well, sources say).

Such a price could be prohibitive.

Maybe I’m missing something, but this seems to me the best sort of trade for the Cardinals.

It does seem that Grichuk will become a decent major leaguer, maybe a good everyday player. At 23, he’s certainly got youth on his side. On the other hand, he’s got a .308 on-base percentage in the high minors, and it seems highly unlikely that he’ll ever draw more than the occasional walk. Grichuk’s a prospect and a good one, but he’s hardly done enough to rank as untouchable.

Piscotty, same sort of thing. Different details, but Piscotty’s about to turn 24 and hasn’t even reached the majors yet. He’ll be a major leaguer and he might be really good, but he’s hardly a Grade A prospect.

Martinez and Gonzales. Two exceptionally young pitchers who have reached the majors, and done some impressive things. But … you know. Young pitchers will break your heart. Not always, of course. Just usually.

Would I trade (for example) Martinez and Piscotty for one year of Hamels? Not unless I were really and truly desperate, and the Cardinals don’t seem to be that.

Here’s the nifty kicker, though: It’s not one year, but four years of Hamels and Hamels is really and truly good. Over the last four seasons, Hamels ranks eighth in the majors in fWAR and seventh in innings. And there’s really not much difference between Hamels and a few guys ahead of him. Granted, looking at four years is arbitrary and leaves out some tremendous pitchers (Chris Sale, for one). But I suspect if you were making a list of 10 pitchers you’d like to have for the next four years, Hamels would be on it.

For some teams, giving up prospects and taking on $90 million of payroll obligations might not make sense. But if the Cardinals have that $90 million in their budget, I don’t see a good reason not to spend it on someone like Hamels. They do, as Jeff Gordon accurately observes, have a fair amount of pitching depth. But that includes the recently injured Adam Wainwright, the often-injured Jaime Garcia, the aforementioned youngsters, Lance Lynn, and John Lackey … with Lackey eligible for free agency next winter.

Gordon does suggest that committing to Hamels’ salary might damage the Cardinals’ chances of retaining Jason Heyward. Perhaps. But it’s not as if the Cardinals would be locked into Hamels’ contract. Unless he gets hurt, they can always turn around and trade him next winter. Especially if the young pitchers do develop.

It just seems that Hamels would be a great guy to have around, in the event that the Pirates and the Cubs present the stiff challenges that we’re expecting in these next few years.