PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Phillies and Cole Hamels' agent, John Boggs, continued to work Tuesday toward a contract extension that would keep Hamels off this month's trade market and next winter's free-agent market.
But significant obstacles remain that could prevent the sides from agreeing on a deal before next week's trading deadline, according to industry sources who have spoken with both sides.
The Phillies are still telling other clubs they're optimistic about getting Hamels signed. And that optimism has spread to the Phillies' clubhouse, where Hamels' teammates are increasingly upbeat about the 28-year-old left-hander remaining with the only team he ever has pitched for.
But the two sides remain hung up on unspecified differences, and one source who has been in touch with both parties said he believes they are now at the stage where they're working to bring discussions to a head, one way or the other.
Multiple sources say the Phillies have discussed a six-year extension with Hamels that would make him one of the highest paid pitchers in history.
ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reported Monday the Phillies' offer is in the neighborhood of the $127.5 million the San Francisco Giants guaranteed to Matt Cain this April, a figure that includes Cain's previously negotiated $15 million salary for 2012.
But Hamels has told teammates he's intrigued by the opportunity to explore free agency and see what he's worth. And he told Comcast Sportsnet early this month that it's "human nature" to "want to know what the unknown (value) is," and that if he foregoes free agency by signing early, that would always "be in the back of your head."
However, Hamels also has said that he enjoys playing in Philadelphia and would love the opportunity to emulate one of his boyhood heroes, Tony Gwynn, and play his entire career for one franchise.
So he now finds himself weighing a momentous choice -- signing with the team he won a World Series with, or opting for the chance to explore all his options, financial and otherwise, in free agency.
That decision is likely to come in the next couple of days. But if Hamels chooses not to sign, the Phillies would then work aggressively to trade him in the next week.
His most recent start, Saturday against the Giants, was attended by scouts from the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays. And the Phillies have spoken to several other clubs about potential deals.
The team has put the trade talk on hold for a week as they intensified their efforts to get Hamels signed. But an executive of one club they've spoken with said Tuesday he's convinced the Phillies already have their most attractive deals lined up, in case Hamels turns down their offer.