Chicago Cubs: Cole Hamels would be nice, but likely not a good fit

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

Could Cole Hamels be a trade target for the Chicago Cubs? Maybe, but the fit likely will not be a good one come this summer.

Although the Chicago Cubs have started rather slow in 2018, they sit in the thick of the divisional race with a 22-18 record – just two games off the pace. Naturally, who the team may or may not target via trade has become a hot topic.

Several midseason acquisitions have depleted the Cubs’ farm system in recent years. Most notably, acquiring closer Aroldis Chapman in 2016 and José Quintana in 2017 eliminated many of the team’s top prospects.

World Series MVP coming to North Side?

Friday, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported the Cubs to be one likely landing spot for Texas Rangers’ ace Cole Hamels. Hamels, 34, is 2-4 with a 3.48 ERA in nine starts this season.

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The fact that Nightengale lists the Cubs as a landing spot for Hamels is odd considering their starting pitching depth. Right now, the Cubs have five healthy starters in their rotation, six on the roster if one counts swingman Mike Montgomery.

Montgomery’s value as a reliever has all but eliminated him from permanently joining the rotation. The Cubs can extend him as needed, as well as left-hander Drew Smyly, who is recovering from Tommy John Surgery.

Smyly could be ready to pitch later this summer, giving the Cubs seven starting pitching options. Essentially, Hamels seems like a curious fit for the Cubs on paper, though his abilities are where the report makes sense.

Hamels’ solid career

Hamels has started at least 28 games in 10 of the past 11 seasons; he has a 3.37 career ERA, posting a sub-3.65 ERA in seven of the last eight seasons.

Hamels did struggle in 2017, posting a 4.20 ERA in just 24 starts. He missed nearly two months with a right-oblique strain, which might explain his numbers regressing across the board.

Regardless of his 2017 season, Hamels has had a dominant career and has bounced back nicely in 2018. His contract pays him $22.5 million in 2018, a rather hefty price.

Be that as it may, the Rangers would more-than-likely pay a substantial chunk of Hamels’ salary if they trade him. He has a $20 million team option for 2019; Hamels’ team could pick that option up, though it depends on how he pitches.

Acquiring starter not the best sign

What does this mean for the Cubs? Realistically, acquiring a starting pitcher would be a red-flag for a Cubs team with World Series expectations.

Hamels could help the team, but the Cubs surely did not expect their rotation to need a midseason boost. Acquiring a starting pitcher would mean that the rotation’s struggles continued into the summer.

Cubs’ starting pitchers are 12th in MLB with a 3.93 ERA, a respectable ranking. However, the team invested $126 million into Yu Darvish and $38 million into Tyler Chatwood. They really should not need any help.

Of course, Darvish (seven starts, 34 innings, 0-3, 5.56 ERA) and Quintana (eight starts, 41 1/3 innings, 5.23 ERA) could and should pitch better. One would think that both pitchers will eventually turn things around.

However, many will likely connect Hamels (and other pitchers) to the Cubs this summer because of the aforementioned pitchers’ struggles. The guess is that Darvish and Quintana will turn things around, though.

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Until then, the idea of Hamels landing on the North Side is not completely crazy. Still, the smart money is on the current Cubs’ rotation turning it on and eliminating any talks of acquiring a starting pitcher.