Cubs could look at a Cole Hamels reunion to add needed rotation depth

(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

A Cole Hamels reunion could wind up being a win-win for both he and the Cubs.

With three key pieces of the Chicago Cubs starting rotation set to test the waters of free agency in Jon Lester, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood – pitching is a major need for the team this offseason. With a tight budget and limited financial flexibility, Theo Epstein will have to be creative.

So when you think about trying to A) stay competitive and B) not break the bank, it becomes a bit of a high-wire act when finding targets. One such name that could fit the bill is veteran left-hander and former Cub Cole Hamels.

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Chicago let Hamels walk at the conclusion of the 2019 campaign after a year-plus on the North Side. On the open market, the southpaw fetched a one-year deal from the Atlanta Braves worth $18 million. To say the Braves didn’t get their money’s worth is a dramatic understatement.

He pitched just 3 1/3 innings this season. A February arm injury sidelined him early in 2020 and after working his way back late in the year, he hit the shelf once again – this time with shoulder fatigue. Thus ended his brief stint in Atlanta.

Now, with Hamels, everything comes down to his physical. If there are red flags, he’ll be unlikely to get even a big league guarantee – despite his excellent resume and pedigree. Even if he proves to be healthy, MLB Trade rumors has him projected for just $4 million on a one-year deal.

We all know what Hamels did in his time with the Cubs. After joining the team midway through the 2018 campaign, he put the team on his back, working to a 2.36 ERA in a dozen second-half starts, even earning NL Pitcher of the Month honors in August.

In his second year with the club, Hamels picked up right where he left off – posting a 2.98 ERA in 17 first-half outings, before tailing off in a big way after the All-Star Break. Down the stretch, he struggled to a 5.79 ERA, 1.833 WHIP and 2.19 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Still, he made his mark in a brief stint with Chicago – one that is still fresh in the minds of fans and members of the organization.

Of course, such a move really predicates around the belief that, once again, Chicago runs it back with its core one last time before they hit the open market next winter. A veteran arm like Hamels knows the clock is ticking on his career and would likely want to play for a contender in 2021. A rebuild or fire sale at the Friendly Confines might keep him from considering a return to the Windy City.

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But if the Cubs are shaping up to be competitive, a reunion with Hamels on the cheap could be an answer for a front office facing its fair share of questions heading into the offseason.