ESPN – The Philadelphia Phillies are preparing a substantial offer to their soon-to-be-free-agent left-hander Cole Hamels in an attempt to determine whether they can sign him to an extension in the next two weeks, sources told ESPN.com on Thursday. However, the Phillies are aware that in order to retain the winningest pitcher they have developed in the past 40 years, it could require one of the largest contracts in team history. Both Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and Hamels’ agent, John Boggs, declined to comment on any aspect of the negotiations. The market for Hamels has been shaped in the past few months by the five-year, $112.5 million extension signed by San Francisco right-hander Matt Cain in April, a deal that actually guaranteed him six years and $127.5 million when his salary for 2012 was factored in. The Phillies also influenced that market with the five-year, $120 million deal they agreed to with Cliff Lee in December 2010, a contract that established a then-record average annual value for a pitcher of $24 million per season. Although the Phillies’ payroll is approaching the $178 million luxury-tax threshold (and actually may already have exceeded it), the club believes it can find a way to sign Hamels and stay under the threshold in 2013 and beyond, a source said.

I wrote yesterday that it would be an extremely dangerous proposition to trade Cole Hamels for prospects with the hope of re-signing the stud free agent to be in the offseason. Apparently, the Phillies don’t want anyone wooing Hamels with the swift dick for a couple of months either.

Jayson Stark surmises that in order to keep Hamels the team will have to drop “one of the biggest contracts in team history” in his lap to do so. And if by “one of the biggest” he means “the biggest” he’s right. Hamels has every right to scoff at the 5-year deal valued at $120 million given to Cliff Lee in the winter of 2010. I know this city has a boner for Lee, as evidenced by the fanbase’s complete refusal to assign any blame for his one-win letdown of a season. But, like, his BABIP, right? Shut the fuck up. Not only is Hamels nearly five-years younger than Lee, he’s also better. And let’s forget all of this homegrown bullshit. I don’t care about his roots. I care about the 2008 World Series MVP, five-straight NL East titles he’s helped pitch them to, and more important, that he possesses the potential to actually get better. Who knows what will become of the 2012 Phillies in the second half of the season? But if they want to win in 2013 and beyond, I don’t see how letting, you know, your best player walk is going to help get it done. They have to make it happen, so whatever offer they’re planning, it better be a damn good one.