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jason hammel oriolesApropos of Chicago Cubs GM Jed Hoyer’s comments a little earlier today that the Cubs could be in the market for more than one starting pitcher, Jon Morosi reports that the Cubs – together with the Royals, Braves, and Pirates – are showing interest in free agent righty Jason Hammel

Hammel, 31, is a free agent for the first time after coming up with the Rays, spending a few mixed years in Colorado, and then pitching in Baltimore the past two seasons. It was a mixed bag in Baltimore, with an effective 2012 (3.43 ERA over 118 innings, 2.69 K/BB) and a down 2013 (4.97 ERA over 139.1 innings, 2.00 K/BB). Interestingly, the results weren’t all that flukey. Hammel was actually very good in 2012 (3.29 FIP, 22.9% K rate, relatively normal BABIP and HR/FB rate, and a 2.6 WAR in just 118 innings), and very bad in 2013 (4.93 FIP, 15.7% K rate, normal BABIP, slightly elevated HR/FB).

The biggest difference for Hammel in 2013? His groundball rate took a nosedive, from a very nice 53.2% in 2012 to just 40.1% in 2013. Couple that with the slight uptick in HR/FB rate (more fly balls, and more of ‘em going for homers), and you’ve got a guy who went from giving up 9 homers in 118 innings in 2012 to 22 in 139.1 innings the next year.

Why did it happen? Well, I’m not sure it if was intentional, but Hammel seemed to rely much more heavily on his four-seamer than his two-seamer last year, the latter of which can generate more groundballs for some pitchers. His velocity was down slightly, but not enough to account for the dramatic drop-off in performance. Could “fixing” him really be as simple as suggesting more two-seamers?

I won’t pretend to know the answer, but his history is an interesting study of up-and-down performance, without a lot of traditional good/bad luck indicators. It’s almost like sometimes he’s on, and sometimes he’s off. In any case, he projects to be a relatively average 2-win type pitcher next year, which is perfectly fine at the back of the rotation.

For the Cubs, who knows? Maybe Chris Bosio works some magic, Hammel’s groundball rate (and strikeout rate) tick back up, and he becomes this year’s Scott Feldman on a one-year prove-it deal (with a midseason trade).

If Hammel is willing to take a one-year deal in the $6-7 million range, I think you’ve got to be pretty interested in that. It probably depends on whether he wants a deal like that from the Cubs (where he’s likely to be shipped out to a contender midseason), or wants a two-year, lower AAV deal from a contender now.

  • Blake

    I’d rather the FO gives Jason Hammel 5-6 million over Scott Baker.

  • Stogie

    Just what we need: another Edwin Jackson.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Jackson is actually considerably better. Take that as you will.

      • Stogie

        Their ERAs were nearly identical.

        • DarthHater

          Q.E.D. Bert just got pwned. :-P

        • DavidC

          Your mistake is judging a pitcher strictly by ERA

      • praying the cubs get ready to win

        Brett any chance the Cubs trade EJax? Yanks?

  • Patrick G

    I read Hammel wants a 3 year deal, but if he can’t get 3 years, he would prefer a 1 year deal opposed to 2 year deal as a “prove it” year and hit free agency again next year to cash in. Sounds like Scott Feldman 2.0 and exactly what the Cubs would look for.

  • FarmerTanColin

    Little interest imo. Could do worse I guess. Not as much upside as the Feldman signing last year but could net something in trade. meh save the 6 mil let Hendricks start.

  • Patrick G

    Also, Mark Mulder is apparently making a comeback, I have a hard time thinking the Cubs would make sense for a 36 year old, but wanted to get peoples reactions if they would want him.

    • FarmerTanColin

      Ha really?

    • Cheese Chad

      I’d like him on a minor league contract because, generally, why not? Unless he’s blocking someone’s roster spot.

  • Isaac

    1 year variety = like
    3 year variety = dislike

  • W_Francisco

    I still can’t believe the Orioles gave the Cubs Strop and Arrieta for a few months of Feldman knowing they were’t going to re-sign him. If they can get any trade value whatsoever for Hammel I say sign him, I don’t like Villanueva in the rotation.

    • willis

      Pretty awesome fleece job there. Orioles wanted a starter that badly I suppose, and had enough with two struggling talents. We may look back on things at some point in the next year or so and say that was the best trade this FO made.

      • Serio

        What You Talkin’ Bout Willis!

  • http://ehanauer.com clark addison

    Here we are, bottom feeding again.

    Sign Shark.

    • Isaac

      Yes, since talking to Jason Hammel about a 1 year deal and signing Samardzija to a long term contract are related in any way whatsoever.

  • Die hard

    With Chamberlain going to the DBacks it is looking more likely that Shark will pitch Cubs opening day and so why poke an oar at him?

    • MichiganGoat

      It’s cute that you don’t understand why.

    • DarthHater

      WTF does the Dbacks making an offer to a relief pitcher have to do with Shark starting for the Cubs on opening day?

      • MichiganGoat

        Because die hard… Duh

  • Die hard

    Then why not look at “Bat” Masterson of Indians? With that moniker he needs serious consideration too

    • MichiganGoat

      Because one is a free agent that will sign a cheap one year deal and the other is under contract and we have to trade for him. Not example comparable now is it?

      • Die hard

        Masterson is twice the pitcher Shark is– make the trade for him and keep Shark to give Cubs credibility — then pay what it takes to keep both

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    How about Maholm, Narveson, or Marcum ? Anybody but Baker.

  • Hutch

    Wouldn’t mind trying to trade for Austin Jackson if tigers want to go after kemp. Solid cf option

    • Hutch

      Russel and bogie for a jax would be sweet

      • DavidC

        LOL, a LOOGY and a backup OF for a consistent 3+ win CF with two years of team control? That is one of the silliest trade proposals of the offseason so far, and you have some heavy competition.

        • DavidC

          Oh, now I see it was Vogelbach and not Bogusevic. Only slightly less silly.

  • Diamond Don

    Yes, what about Maholm? Left handed pitcher who could bring back a nice prospect (similar to Vizcaino) at the trade deadline.

    • Fenway Frank

      No way Maholm nets that

      • Jordan

        Hahaha. That’s pretty funny.

  • Hutch

    Vogie*

  • nashvillecub

    I’ve stated this before, but I really think we will bottom feed again this offseason in the hopes we find a diamond in the rough to flip, and then get another high draft pick. Yes the farm system has, on paper, greatly improved, Bryant looks like a can’t miss, but we’ve exhausted our trade chips at the mlb level. Time to re-supply some bullets at the mlb level or sign some players that can show the youngsters how to win. Can you have a team of all young players come up and immediately compete for the WS without having players on the team to lead them? We are a major market team!!! I hope the three exclamation points drive home my frustration.

    • Die hard

      How about making a move on Corey Hart?

      • Carew

        I can get behind that

        • Rizzovoir Dog

          I thought his bad knees prevented him from playing the OF.

  • Blackhawks1963

    Baker and Hammel. I just threw up a little bit. We are taking dumpster diving to a whole new level. The 2014 Chicago Cubs, brought to you by Waste Management !

    A practical question…should we pass the collection plate for the Ricketts?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I assume you hated the Feldman signing last year, too?

  • SalukiHawk

    If there’s one position of depth on the major league roster, it’s #5 starters.

  • Dougy D

    He sounds like the second coming of Steve Trachsel. Good every other year, terrible the next.

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