Originally written on Phillies Nation  |  Last updated 7/5/12

Signing Cole Hamels should be the number priority of the Phillies, starting today. (AP)

Yesterday, Corey Seidman outlined for you why it would behoove the Phillies to trade Cole Hamels before the upcoming July 31st trade deadline. Today, I’m here to tell you why, instead of trading Hamels, the Phillies must do whatever it takes to retain him.

Over the last decade, the Phillies have morphed from a somewhat competitive team with a modest payroll to a powerhouse with the second highest payroll in baseball.

They’ve established themselves as an aggressive organization with a win-now mentality, worrying about the future only when the time to cross that bridge comes. We saw this mentality when they gave big contracts to Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, and, more recently, Cliff Lee, Jimmy Rollins and Jonathan Papelbon.

But now there is doubt about whether the organization will be able to do the same with their home-grown left-hander, Cole Hamels.

As a team that has been so willing to spend big money on other players, how can they possibly justify drawing the line with their youngest and most-talented core player?

The answer is they can’t.

There’s only one logical reason for trading Hamels: If the team feels they can’t retain him, it is better to get prospects in return than to watch him walk on the open market and get nothing. That argument, however, is contingent on the idea that the Phillies are unable to re-sign Hamels.

This team now has no choice but to re-sign Hamels, no matter if they think they can be competitors in the immediate future or not.

Say, for example, Amaro believes the Phils can be competetive once again next season–a notion that isn’t that far-fetched, considering the fact that, assuming no one is traded, they’ll still have Halladay, Lee, Worley, Papelbon, Rollins, Utley, Pence, Ruiz, and a healthy Howard, among others, under team control. In that case, re-signing Hamels makes what the organization believes to be an already competitive bunch that much stronger by adding a young, left-handed stud to the rotation.

On the other side of the spectrum, if Amaro believes this team needs to enter a rebuilding stage next season and beyond, who better to build your team around than a young ace reminiscent of Steve Carlton just entering the prime of his career? There are few better options out there.

I don’t think anyone would disagree with either of these points. Admittedly, though, neither of them take into account the type of money Hamels will command in free agency, which has the potential to be record-setting.

Many suggest paying Hamels that type of money will handcuff the team from making other necessary moves this winter because of salary restrictions.

This is another fair point. However, it also has a contingency.  The idea that the Phillies cannot–or, at least, will not–cross over the luxury tax threshold with their payroll is one created by the organization. There is no rule against spending more than $178M on team salary, and the Phils are a team that is generating more revenue than ever before. If crossing the luxury tax threshold means re-signing Hamels, then the Phillies  must cross it.

There is, of course, the supposition that the Phillies could trade Hamels, and still re-sign him this coming winter. If you could assure me that this would happen, then I think it makes a lot of sense. However, there is no such assurance.

If the Phillies trade Hamels, he is no longer their property, and his return isn’t guaranteed. There’s also no guarantee that the prospects you get in exchange for him will develop into big league ballplayers, let alone talents on the level of Hamels.

So, instead the Phillies should look to deal their other movable pieces to revamp the farm system and sign Hamels today. You give him a huge deal and be done with it.

The Phils have established themselves as a big market team with a massive payroll. As much as some may not want to hear it, they’ve become the Yankees of the National League. Over the last few years, this method of operation has been full of frivolity, a product of an atmosphere constantly centered around winning.

During those more joyous seasons, the team handed out elephantine contracts like they were a t-shirt giveaway at a Sunday afternoon game.  They’ve set the precedent of spending big, often to a fault. Now they find themselves in a position where they’re on the precipice of losing their most valuable player for the future–there’s literally no player currently in the organization more valuable to the future of the Phillies  than Hamels–because of the irresponsible spending of the past. They cannot allow that to happen.

They’ve started down the road of big market, big spending baseball. This is who they wanted to be. Now there’s no turning back.

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