Former Chicago Cubs right-hander Jason Hammel is back on the open market after putting up some of the worst numbers of his career in Kansas City.
At least for Chicago Cubs fans, Jason Hammel will always be remembered as a solid hurler who helped the team win its first championship in 108 years. Suffice to say, though, fans in Kansas City won’t recall the right-hander with such warm-hearted fondness.
The 36-year-old pitcher is back on the open market after the Kansas City Royals declined their half of Hammel’s mutual option for 2019. That option would have paid him $12 million next season. Instead, the Royals picked up the tab for a $2 million buyout – and it’s not hard to see why.
A horrendous two years in Kansas City
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Last season, Hammel pitched to a horrendous 6.02 ERA in 18 starts and 21 relief appearances. After opening the year in the rotation, Kansas City ultimately demoted him to a long relief role down the stretch given the righty’s consistent poor showings.
He totaled just 127 frames last season, by far his lowest single-season total since 2012, when he was a member of the Baltimore Orioles. Opponents hit .315 against him, a career-worst mark, as he pitched to a 1.63 WHIP – very nearly a personal high, as well.
It’s hard to imagine any big league team giving him any kind of guarantee heading into next season. Between his age (he turns 35 next September) and his terrible showing in Kansas City (a 5.59 ERA, 1.510 WHIP, 11 H/9 over the last two season) – there’s not a lot working in his favor.
The high point of his career to-date
That’s not to say he hasn’t had some quality frames in his big league career. Between his time with the Oakland Athletics and Chicago Cubs, Hammel was a quality middle-of-the-rotation presence from 2014 to 2016.
Of course, the Cubs brought Hammel in via free agency in Feb. 2014. At the deadline, he was part of the Addison Russell trade, along with fellow right-hander Jeff Samardzija. The following offseason, Chicago brought Hammel back into the fold, signing him to a two-year, $20 million deal that contained an option for 2017, as well.
In both 2015 and 2016, the right-hander made 30 and 31 starts, respectively, pitching to a cumulative 3.79 ERA and 1.183 WHIP over those two campaigns. For whatever reason, manager Joe Maddon consistently utilized a very quick hook when Hammel took the mound – a source of irritation, at times, for the veteran.
After the Cubs won it all in 2016 (Hammel did not pitch in the postseason at all that season), the front office decided it was time to move on, utilizing a $2 million buyout rather than keeping him on board for 2017.
As I mentioned earlier, we’ll always remember Hammel for his role on the Cubs as they went from perennial laughingstock to National League powerhouse. But it appears as if the door may be closing on the veteran right-hander’s big league career.