Could the MVP of the 2008 NLCS make a return to the Phillies?
Not once have the Phillies brought back a member of the 2008 World Championship club since beginning their rebuild. Despite calls to sign Chase Utley as a player-coach the organizations is moving forward towards a new era of Phillies baseball.
However, as the new wave of players enters the city, the organization needs to have veteran pieces in place to help move them along. This year Pat Neshek, Carlos Santana, and Tommy Hunter are tasked with mentoring these prospects, but the Phillies (at this point) have no veteran starting pitchers on their staff.
Next offseason the Phillies are expected to spend on the free agent market, primarily at third base and right field. Obviously, the rotation will be examined by Matt Klentak and Gabe Kapler, but the options aren’t as strong as expected.
According to Spotrac, there will be 22 starting pitchers available in free agency next season. That number will change as teams exercise and decline contractual options. But from those 22 currently slated to be free agents, only five are under the age of 30: Drew Pomerantz, Garrett Richards, Patrick Corbin, Matt Harvey, and Nathan Eovaldi. Injuries have riddled many of their careers, particularly Harvey in New York.
C.C. Sabathia, Adam Wainwright, James Shields, and Scott Kazmir are retirement candidates.
In reality, the only intriguing veteran with a decent health record available in free agency is Astros starter Dallas Kuechel. Would he leave Houston, a team with money, young talent, and a history of winning, for a mystery such as Philadelphia with the money and potential talent, but no winning?
One pitcher who is likely to become available is arguably the second-greatest left-handed pitcher in Phillies history, Cole Hamels.
Traded to Texas after throwing a no-hitter against the Cubs in Chicago, Hamels has one more guaranteed year left on his six-year $144 million extension he signed in July of 2012 that will pay him $22.5 million.
After this season the 35-year-old Hamels has a $20 million option on the table that is not likely to vest automatically. According to Spotrac, these are the terms required for Hamels’ contract to vest into 2019.
"2019 option guaranteed if Hamels 1) has 400 IP in 2017-18, including 200 IP in 2018, and 2) is not on the disabled list with a shoulder or elbow injury at the end of the 2018 season"
What holds Hamels back is the innings pitched requirement after suffering an oblique injury last season that cost him two months. Hamels pitched just 148 innings last year, which means he needs to pitch 252 innings, a career high. In 8 of his 12 major league seasons, Hamels has pitched 200 innings but has never gone more than 227.1, which came in 2008 when he led the rotation to the World Series at 24-years-old.
Texas would have to buy-out Hamels to the tune of $6 million, thus sending the lefty into free agency for the first time in his career.
Would Hamels return to where it all started and be the Jamie Moyer of the next great Phillies rotation?
Hamels clearly loves the city, and was actually in town this week and sat courtside at the Sixers game.
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Fair to say the city still loves Hollywood Hamels.
Philadelphia needs a veteran voice in their starting rotation, and who better than someone who knows the city better than anyone and has pitched under the harshest pressures and criticisms.
Financially the Phillies can afford a 35-year-old Hamels, who would likely garner $15-18 million per season over two years with a vesting option for a third year.
It’s worth the price for a quality pitcher who can mentor the next wave of talent.