As if there wasn’t already enough proof out there that signing an aging first baseman to a 5-year, $125 million contract extension two years before he hit free agency was a bad idea, comes this nugget from ESPN’s Jayson Stark today in his Rumblings & Grumblings column…
The Phillies have been hoping that Hamels would take a Jered Weaver-type deal. But Hamels’ agent, John Boggs, has been adamant that Weaver isn’t their idea of a comparable case. And we would conjecture that there are two reasons for that: 1) CC Sabathia, and 2) Ryan Howard.
OK, so why Howard? Because it would be nuts to think Hamels didn’t notice that the Phillies reached out to their first baseman, two years before his free agency arrived, and paid him top-of-the-market dollars (five years, $125 million). There was no hometown discount in that package. So why would they expect Hamels to take one?
“The Phillies have proven,” Boggs told Rumblings, “that if they’ve got a player and they like the player, they’ll pay pretty close to free-agent value.”
He didn’t name any names. But you don’t need to be Ruben Amaro Jr. to connect those dots.
With the Ryan Howard deal, the Phillies told every player up for a contract extension that they are willing to pay a player close to the value that player would receive on the free agent market.
In other words, the Phils have told Boggs, “Don’t worry about a hometown discount, we’ll unload the Brinks truck for you.”
Clearly that was not their intention when they signed Howard. They obviously didn’t foresee the ripple effects. Amaro and the rest of the front office decided to reward Howard for his performance and hard work up to that point by signing him to an enormous extension two years before he was scheduled to hit free agency, assuming Ryan would maintain the level of production to which they had become accustomed.
But this isn’t about Howard. It’s about what the Howard contract said to Hamels. Hamels saw what the Phils did for his hulking teammate and now expects them to do the same for him. He wants a contract from the Phillies that would amount to fair market value if he were to hit free agency after the season.
And who can blame him? Does anyone really think someone (Dodgers, Yankees) isn’t going to offer a 28-year-old stud left-hander a six or seven-year deal worth $140-160 million?
The deal Cliff Lee signed is not going to be enough. It’s going to take C.C. Sabbathia money to get this done.
Now, it’s possible that Hamels’ negotiating stance would be no different if Howard had never signed that extension. Even if Howard hadn’t gotten that offer, Hamels could very well have been looking for the same thing.
The difference is leverage in the negotiations. The Phils cannot low-ball the Hamels camp. Boggs is holding that Howard contract over Amaro’s head like a baby grand piano in a Looney Tunes cartoon.
And we should know by the end of spring training whether or not Amaro and the Phils have been flattened by the very piano they themselves helped create.