The Phillies and Cole Hamels have agreed on a six-year deal that will pay him $144 million, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney and CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal will pay Hamels an average of $24 million a year, the same as Cliff Lee.
While the deal has not been officially announced by either the Phillies or Hamels’ agent as of early Wednesday morning, it seems clear Hamels will be a Phillie through the 2018 season at least, taking him through his 34th birthday. The deal also makes Hamels the second-highest paid pitcher in the Majors, behind C.C. Sabathia, but ahead of the $137.5 million deal Johan Santana signed with the Mets. Hamels’ contract also poses an interesting problem for the Phils.
That’s right, $95 million in payroll for four players in 2013. And for a team trying to avoid the luxury tax, the Hamels signing makes one think the Phillies could still sell off some high-salaried pieces before the July 31 trade deadline, mainly right fielder Hunter Pence.
Of course, if the Phillies keep scoring six runs in the bottom of the eighth and staging stirring comeback victories, there’s a chance no one is going anywhere.
But an investment in Hamels himself seems a worthwhile gamble. He’s never had any real serious health issues, is just now entering the prime of his career, has tremendous swing-and-miss stuff and has a proven track record of performing in the playoffs. You could even make the argument that, since 2010, Hamels has been the Phils’ most consistent pitcher.
Yes, even including Roy Halladay.
Hamels’ 2012 numbers are right in line with his career stats, 11-4 with a 3.23 ERA, with 131 K’s in 133 innings. Also, by signing the deal, Hamels can follow in the footsteps of his boyhood idol Tony Gwynn, who played his entire career with one team, the San Diego Padres.
Hamels’ signing is bad news for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were seen as the favorite to sign the left-hander if he hit free agency, as well as the Texas Rangers, who had Cole atop their wish list at the trade deadline. It also means the Phils will not have the opportunity to provide their system with a talented third baseman like Texas’ Mike Olt, unless a trade of Hunter Pence is able to bring in that kind of player.
Still, with Halladay and Lee both in their mid-30s, and the Phils hoping to contend for the next three to four years with their current nucleus, signing Hamels was something that had to get done.
Now, Ruben Amaro and the front office can focus on the trade deadline knowing Hamels will be in the fold. Amaro now has quite a challenge on his hands. He has to get financially creative as tries to fill holes at third base, the bullpen and the outfield for 2013, with less payroll flexibility.
As always, the Phillies were able to keep a player they really wanted to keep.
And perhaps the best news of all is I can continue to wear my Cole Hamels jersey for another six years.
It truly is a great day.