PHILADELPHIA -- The whispers were loud, persistent and anonymous. The Phillies were asking too much, way too much, for their big-ticket items. As good as Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon were, there was no way they were worth the can't-miss prospects from the farm system of whichever team was being rumored to be most interested at the moment.
Or so the innuendo went. It could have been nothing more than a calculated, covert attempt to drive down the price on both pitchers. It forced a denial from the Phils.
Now, there are two good reasons why it's impossible to confirm or deny that accusation. One is that none of us is privy to the back-and-forth discussions that went on, so we don't know with any degree of certainty exactly what club president Pat Gillick and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. were holding out for.
Then there's this: Value isn't a fixed concept. A ballpoint pen, a steak, a car -- or a controllable ace left-handed starter in the prime of his career or a closer who hasn't blown a save all season -- is worth exactly what someone is willing to pay.
Now we know. Now we know what the Rangers would give up for Hamels. Now we know what the Nationals were willing to part with to get Papelbon. Now (with the usual caveat that only time will tell how these deals ultimately pan out) we can at least offer an educated opinion on how the Phillies fared when they cashed in their two most valuable trade chips just ahead of Friday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline.
All things considered, it says here they did pretty darn well.
By also sending outfielder Ben Revere to the Blue Jays for two Minor Leaguers shortly before the Deadline, the Phillies added a total of eight prospects to their farm system.
"These are exactly the types of things we set out to do when we went into this transition in the offseason," Amaro said. "We got a very good package of players we think will help this organization in the future. We were very happy with the return. What we get in this return is an unknown. Who knows what's going to happen? But we believe the level of talent we received was exactly what we were looking for.
"We were looking for depth and we were looking for quality, and we got both."
Sure, it would have been great if the Dodgers had been willing to trade Joc Pederson for Hamels before the season started or Corey Seager this week. Yeah, it would have been exciting if the Rangers had made Joey Gallo available. Or if the Cubs had offered Kyle Schwarber or the Red Sox dangled Blake Swihart.
In the bigger picture, though, it's useful to remember that this isn't an organization that's just a player or two away. This is an organization that is in the process of trying to restock a system that ran low after years of trading prospects and giving up Draft choices as the front office tried to win as many championships as possible around a core consisting of the best first baseman the franchise has ever had (Ryan Howard), the best second baseman (Chase Utley), the best shortstop (Jimmy Rollins) and the best starting pitcher it had developed in more than 50 years (Hamels).
From that perspective, getting multiple prospects instead of one big-name player makes sense. And it also demonstrated consistency on the part of the Phillies' thinkers. Amaro, after all, pointed out more than once that potential is great, but it doesn't mean much until a player proves he can produce at the big league level.
"The biggest risk is how these guys will continue to develop and what they might be able to do here in Philadelphia," Amaro said. "That's the risk, because they're prospects. But we think they're going to be guys who are going to impact our club, hopefully in the near future."
Financial advisors warn against going all in on even the most attractive stock. Better to hedge your bets by spreading the money around. And that, in essence, is what the Phillies have done.
Again, there are no guarantees that even the most touted kid will develop into a star. So instead of holding out for one of the very best Rangers prospects, they took Jake Thompson (ranked No. 4 by MLB.com), Nick Williams (No. 5), Jorge Alfaro (No. 6), Jerad Eickhoff (No. 17) and Alec Asher (No. 29). With one deal, the system was suddenly that much deeper. The Phillies also got veteran Matt Harrison, an 18-game winner in 2012 who has been waylaid by injuries since.
The Phillies got only one player from the Nationals for Papelbon, and Amaro even admitted that Nick Pivetta projects as a middle- to bottom-of-the-rotation starter. Then again, trading Papelbon presented unique challenges.
The trend in baseball is away from paying top dollar to closers, and Papelbon is making $13 million this season, the final guaranteed year of what remains the richest contract given to a reliever in history. Plus, he has a vestable option for another $13 million in 2016.
On top of that, he didn't make Amaro's task any easier by making it clear every time he was within shouting distance of a camera, microphone or notepad that he wanted out. The unspoken implication was that if the Phillies didn't trade him, they'd wish they had. All of which only increased the perception that as talented as the closer might be on the mound, any team acquiring him risked adding a headache off it.
Against that backdrop, getting a prospect who has the chance to be a No. 3 starter in the big leagues looks a whole lot better.
And when all is said and done, the Phillies have added eight young players. Probably not all will make it, but that's all right. The organization is deeper now than it was a week ago and appears to be a step closer to contending. And wasn't that the goal in the first place?
Paul Hagen is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.