When Cole Hamels came over to the Chicago Cubs last season, he was reinvigorated pitching for a contender. The Cubs picked up a hefty option, and he’s been worth it.
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t think the Chicago Cubs would pick up the $20 million option on Cole Hamels. I figured maybe they would try to work a short-term deal to keep him in Chicago, but they couldn’t pick up that option. But the Cubs front office felt like he was their guy, and we’re afraid if he went to free agency they would lose him. He’s rewarded them by pitching like he’s back in his 20s. There is something to say about playing for a contender, and a team that is in a rebuild–or doesn’t have any direction at all.
A big part of the reason for picking up Hamels option was the uncertainty of what Yu Darvish would bring to the table this season. And last year’s signing Tyler Chatwood didn’t prove to be a reliable option in the rotation, walking 95 hitters in just 103 2/3 innings. The Chicago Cubs were going to need some stability, and Hamels seemed like the perfect fit.
Hamels, and well as Jon Lester, are from a different era of pitchers. If they go less than seven innings, it’s a disappointment. If you come to take the ball from them in the middle of an inning? They aren’t happy about it. There aren’t many pitchers like that left anymore. The Cubs happen to have two of them. And for the sake of their bullpen, it’s been a blessing they do.
In Hamels last five starts, he’s pitched 36 innings (7 IP four times, 8 IP the other) and allowed just four earned runs for a 1.00 ERA. He’s struck out 36 hitters while only walking eight. With the bullpen in a little bit of turmoil, starts like these take pressure off the bullpen and Joe Maddon.
Tony Barnette was just recently activated, and Craig Kimbrel should be that far behind. Carl Edwards Jr. who was pitching well before the injury will hopefully return soon after the All-Star break. So while the pen is gaining stability in name and number? They’ll still need to prove it on the field.
But starts like the last five Hamels has put up are a lifesaver to the manager and the bullpen. With Kyle Hendricks on the IL until at least after the All-Star break, Chatwood and Adbert Alzolay will likely form a six-man rotation to help ease the burden on the pen. Chatwood has been serviceable in filling in, and Alzolay comes up a solid relief appearance in his debut in which he got the win.
It would have been hard for me to say that anyone is worth $20 million for just one season. And even if Hamels can’t keep up these numbers, I feel like at least once, that high price tag was worth the player the Chicago Cubs got.