By Jayson Stark of ESPN.com
The Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers have emerged over the weekend as the likely favorites to trade for Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels, multiple sources said.
The Phillies also continue to discuss Hamels with at least four other teams -- the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox, a source said. However, those teams are said to have had more trouble matching up on a potential deal than the Dodgers or Rangers.
Sources say they would be surprised if a trade was completed before Tuesday, even in the wake of Hamels' no-hitter Saturday against the Cubs.
"I doubt it happens quick," said an official of one team that has spoken with the Phillies.
The Rangers and Dodgers both had scouts in attendance at Hamels' no-hitter, as did the Yankees, Giants, Houston Astros, Toronto Blue Jays and several other clubs. But other than Texas and Los Angeles, those teams were described as doing their "due diligence" in monitoring the market for the 31-year-old left-hander.
Both the Rangers and Dodgers view Hamels as an attractive alternative to this winter's deep class of free-agent aces, because he is under contract for three more years after this season and has a team or vesting option for a fourth season. The guaranteed portion of his contract runs through only his age-34 season -- whereas a group of free agents in or approaching their 30s, such as David Price, Johnny Cueto and Zack Greinke (assuming he opts out), will be looking for deals that take them into their late 30s.
The Phillies have been positioning themselves for months to take the Hamels talk to the brink of Friday's 4 p.m. ET deadline, in the hope that some team would be more willing to overpay as the deadline pressure mounts. So clubs speaking with Philadelphia continue to report they wouldn't be surprised if a Hamels deal goes right down to the deadline.
Hamels is 6-7 with a 3.64 ERA in 20 starts this season. But his win-loss record is skewed by lack of run support -- which ranks 85th among 94 qualifying MLB starters -- and by the two starts immediately preceding his no-hitter, in which he allowed 14 earned runs in 6⅓ innings. His ERA in his 18 other starts this season is 2.80.
One scout who watched Hamels' no-hitter Saturday told ESPN.com: "After watching that, there's no doubt in my mind he's still one of the best pitchers in baseball. He's a difference-maker for somebody."