Cole Hamels isn't going to be suiting up for the Philadelphia Phillies to open the season for the first time since 2006, but that hasn't stopped the former World Series MVP from being very vocal about the direction of his long-time team recently.
Hamels joined the WIP morning show last week, and discussed what the end of his tenure in Philadelphia was like and the positive memories he has of pitching in a sold-out Citizens Bank Park during the team's run of five straight division titles from 2007-2011.
Yesterday, Hamels opened his two-day pitching camp in Garnet Valley, and gave a variety of interesting quotes to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Hamels, a first-round pick in 2002, spoke glowingly of Jason Groome, who visited the team last summer as a potential candidate for the number one overall pick in 2016 and assisted at his camp.
"He did a workout with the Phillies," Hamels said. "I was there, throwing a bullpen, and he had just got done throwing. I was like, 'How old are you?'
"I was not that big," he said. "Gavin Floyd and I were skinny. We didn't throw that hard. We had to grow into our bodies to get some velocity. He's already got it. I told him, 'Man, you stay healthy and you are going to be golden.' "
Groome, who is a New Jersey native, is 6'5 and posted an 0.98 ERA in his junior season of high school. Prior to June's draft, Groome will have his senior season, which will be heavily scouted by the Phillies and other teams within the top five picks, where Groome seems like a relative lock to be selected.
Hamels also took a step back and discussed the Phillies' rebuilding strategy as a whole.
"You acquire the pitching because you can always trade that," Hamels said. "The best pitching, you keep it. Your hitters? Those are the second- and third-rounders that you need to get. Or you can easily pay them. Trust me. Every guy for the Rangers was like, 'Oh man, we love to hit [at Citizens Bank Park].' You can always get the hitters."
Hamels is correct in this assessment, and there are a few things that support his theory. The New York Mets had a loaded home-grown pitching staff last year, and didn't pick up their star offensive player, Yoenis Cespedes, until the trade deadline. They went on to play in the World Series.
From a Phillies' perspective, Hamels was a first-round pick, and while Chase Utley was also taken in the first-round, Jimmy Rollins was a second-round pick and Ryan Howard was a fifth-round pick, so he is correct in saying that you can find star position players in later rounds. That's not to say that the Phillies shouldn't even consider taking a position player in the first-round pick, but Hamels' point is well taken.
The other thing that the Phillies have working for them is that if they build an elite rotation through the draft, and supplement that with some position talent, like Hamels suggests they should, they will have a ton of money to work with when the 2018 free-agent class becomes available. That group is one that is being dubbed the best in the history of the sport, as it could feature Bryce Harper, Josh Donaldson, Andrew McCutchen and Manny Machado, from the position end of things. If the Phillies can spend the next few years developing a top-notch rotation, they could be in position to put themselves over the top by adding one of those offensive stars in 2018.
Tim Kelly (@TimKellySports) is the Managing Editor of Philliedelphia.com, focusing on news and features.