Initially, Chicago Cubs fans questioned trading for Cole Hamels. Now, it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t want the veteran left-hander to return in 2019.
Twenty million dollars is a pretty hefty amount for one season of a 34-year-old pitcher with an awful lot of mileage on his arm. Not to mention the fact the Chicago Cubs seem destined to blow past the luxury threshold this winter. The smart move would be to decline the option and work out a short-term deal.
In 12 starts with the Cubs, Hamels pitched to a 2.36 ERA. Across 76 1/3 innings, he gave up just 61 hits, walking 23, striking out 74 and allowing just six home runs, a low number compared to the 23 he gave up with the Rangers.
In Hamels, the Cubs have a seasoned veteran with loads of playoff experience, which is always nice to have come October.
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Throughout his career, he’s been incredibly reliable in the postseason. In 17 appearances, including 16 starts, spanning 100 1/3 innings, he’s allowed just 83 hits and 27 walks – while striking out 93.
Not to mention he won a World Series ring back in 2008 with the Philadelphia Phillies. That one relief appearance? That came earlier this month in the National League Wild Card game against the Rockies, as Hamels tossed two innings in the 2-1 loss.
Why retaining Hamels is so important
Before delving into what it might take to keep Cole Hamels in the fold, it’s important to take stock of what the Cubs have rotation-wise.
Jon Lester returns after yet another strong showing. He’s flanked by Kyle Hendricks, the 2016 Major League earned run average leader, and Jose Quintana. Right-hander Yu Darvish, who made just eight starts last year, will be the key for the staff, though, as he returns from a recurring elbow issue in 2019.
Then we get down to the final rotation spot. If Chicago opts to let Hamels move on from the North Side, that leaves two primary options – with a potential long-shot as a third. Mike Montgomery started regularly for the first time as a Cubs last year and seems to have the inside track on the fifth spot.
How would a new deal look for Hamels?
In terms of a reworked contract, something along the lines of two years and $24 million seems to be a fair starting point. Hamels is on the tail end of his career and gave the Cubs an outstanding performance, so there is no reason to not reward him for his work.
From the front office standpoint, you might be able to get some more financial flexibility in such a move, too. Instead of $20 million in payroll going to Hamels next season, maybe it only takes $12 to $14 million, thus freeing up $6 million in space.
Especially with how much of a disaster Tyler Chatwood was and how much Mike Montgomery struggled down the stretch as his innings total climbed, bringing Hamels back would provide some stability and more veteran experience to this rotation.