jason hammel oriolesNo, he’s not a top tier starting pitcher, and, no, he isn’t Masahiro Tanaka. But when it came to the starting pitching market and the Chicago Cubs’ current situation, there may not have been a pitcher I hoped the Cubs would sign more than Jason Hammel. Well, ok, other than Tanaka.

Hammel, 31, offers the perfect mix of upside and short-term commitment for what the 2014 Cubs reasonably need. As discussed before, there are reasons to believe Hammel could perform very well for the Cubs, which is, naturally, what everyone wants.

But the other thing Hammel wants?

“I don’t want to be that guy that’s ‘flipped,'” he told Patrick Mooney. Hammel’s excited to be on the Cubs, and he’s already enjoying fitting into the clubhouse. He’s not interested in thinking about the possibility of being traded in the future right now, and you can read more positive thoughts from Hammel in Mooney’s piece.

That said, when a guy has freshly signed with a new team, you wouldn’t expect – or want – him to feel any differently. I seem to recall that Paul Maholm and Scott Feldman said the same things when they were signed, and, ultimately, each was appreciative of their time with the Cubs, and didn’t seem too upset at being flipped.

But Hammel’s comments got me thinking: what are the scenarios that could lead to Hammel not being flipped?*

Here are some of the broad scenarios I came up with, in a rough descending order of desirability (and hopefully not also ascending order of likelihood):

(1.) The Cubs play so surprisingly well out of the gate, thanks in no small part to Hammel’s performance, that they can’t plausibly deal him in July. The playoffs follow, and the World Series, and a championship. And then we all wake up inside a snow globe.

(2.) Hammel pitches like a man possessed through July, posting legit Cy Young caliber numbers. The Cubs, however, are not competitive, and a trade still seems like the order of the day. Because of Hammel’s absurd dominance, however, the Cubs’ asking price is obscenely high, artificially-inflated by the knowledge that they wouldn’t hate keeping him in future seasons, and could always make him a qualifying offer after the season to pick up a draft pick if he departs. No team is willing to meet the Cubs’ high demands, and Hammel goes on to win the Cy Young on a last place team, with a 1.53 ERA, a 1.60 FIP, a 9:1 K/BB ratio, and a 2 and 25 record.

(3.) The market develops in such a way that, although it’s clear that Hammel has trade value, the Cubs believe his value sufficiently exceeds the offers they’re receiving by the Trade Deadline, and further believe that they’ll be able to make a better trade during the waiver period in August. But, then, to be consistent with Hammel’s desire not to be traded, it just doesn’t work out for whatever reason. Probably should have traded him in July, Cubs.

(4.) Hammel pitches adequately well to be a theoretical trade candidate, but the best teams in the league have disproportionately huge records, and there are very few bubble teams left by July 31. Further, with so many teams out of the race already, the market becomes overwhelmed with trade options that there are simply too many better options available to the three or four buyers (including maybe Jeff Samardzija – which reminds me, Cubs: if you’re intent on trading both guys, remember to do it like you did last year with Feldman and Matt Garza, and trade one of them early. Don’t want a 2012 situation where your own merchandise (Dempster/Garza) is competing with itself until it’s too late.).

(5.) Hammel pitches ineffectively and is not a desirable trade target. Nothing you can do about this one but kick some dirt.

(6.) Hammel’s past forearm/elbow issues pop up in the worst way possible, and he’s injured early in the year, taking him off of the market. I guess it wouldn’t have to be an arm thing. He could pull a hammy or fall victim to a classic piano drop scenario. Point is, an injured Hammel is not a flippable Hammel.

Did I miss any other categorial scenarios where Hammel is not flipped? Here’s hoping for Numbers 1 or 2.

*(That I actively had to think about a list of scenarios where he’s not flipped should suggest to you that, right now, the overwhelming odds are that he is flipped, assuming health and productivity. It’s not like we’re having to come up with a list of scenarios where he is flipped, because it’s pretty much, “Does he have value? Are the Cubs out of contention? Flipped.”)

  • Darth Ivy

    I think that hammel’s camp knows he’ll probably be flipped. It’s an accepted reality.

  • NorthSideIrish

    Is there an option where Hammel pitches well and agrees to a very team friendly extension?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That’s supposed to be encapsulated within number two.

      • NorthSideIrish

        I guess I was thinking less “Cy Young contender” and more “sold mid-rotation guy”. Along the lines of what they though E. Jackson would be, but he likes Chicago and agrees to a 3 year $18M extension.

  • CubFanBob

    It will be interesting to see if the Cubs hover around .500 April to June how it will play out in the later months of the season. I am sure I am the only person in the known universe who believes the Cub’s can play .500 ball or better heading into July.

    • Darth Ivy

      yes, but you never know about unknown universes

      • CubFanBob

        or other dimensions :)

    • noisesquared

      I’m with you Bob – I think the rotation and the platoons in RF/3B should be at least ok, if the bullpen is as solid as expected and Castro, Castillo, and Rizzo get off to good starts, I think .500 in June is possible.

      • Brandon

        Only if they can hit with runners in scoring position.

        • Rich H

          And runners actually end up in scoring position.

    • Edwin

      I think there’s a good chance the Cubs have a month in which they play .500 or better baseball.

      • Eternal Pessimist

        …and an even better chance they have a solid week of .500 or better.

        • roz

          .500? I bet there’s a day when they play 1.000 baseball!

    • Noah_I

      I have a feeling that if the Cubs are hovering around .500 they still sell at the deadline, in part because I don’t think that will put them very close to the division leaders. I expect at least one of the Pirates or Reds to be in the 87-89 win range at the least, and the Cardinals to win above 90, so if you’re on pace to be right around 81-81, you’re not in great shape. Now, it’s a whole different issue if the Cubs REALLY surprise, and, let’s say the Cubs put up a similar run differential as last year but have won a few games more than that (so say on pace for a 74 win season based on out performing Pythagorean alone if all other performances are equal from last year) Rizzo and Castro each become 4 win players (gets you to 80 wins compared to performance last season), the Cubs get a 3 win performance out of 2B (83 wins), Samardzija becomes a 5 win pitcher (add 2 wins, gets us to 85 wins) and the bullpen improves dramatically (let’s say making us an 87 win team_. But the odds of all of that happening, while not losing performance anywhere else where we got solid performance from last season but are less likely to in 2014 (I don’t think we’ll get 5 wins out of our catcher position, likely will be worse in left field and center field), are slim.

    • Jon

      The Cubs added Jason Hammell, Wesley Wright, George Kottaras & Justin Ruggio to a roster that won 66 games last year. If you think this is even re motley close to a .500 ball club, I have so real estate in Arizona I would like to sell you.

    • coondawg

      You are not the only one. ..remember 84 they were supposed to stink that year we had about 3 career years and made the best trade in Cub Lore history .

      • Brocktoon

        The Sosa trade was in the 92 season

  • another JP

    That’s what Hammel says today. If he’s pitching well on a team that’s ten games under .500 by the ASB and has a chance to go to a contender he’ll think differently.

  • Jason P

    Hammel could proclaim that he would rather retire than play for any team other than the Cubs, this ruining any chance the Cubs had of trading him.

    Or he could speed up time and make himself 5 years older, thus giving himself 10-5 rights and allowing him to refuse any trade.


  • Edwin

    How quickly you turn your back on Phil Hughes.

    • Fishin Phil

      He is a fickle little blogger.

      • Edwin

        Well, you know what they say. Hell hath no fury like a blogger’s scorn. Or something.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Aw, crap. You’re right.

  • Johnny Chess

    With everything unknown going into Spring training There is nothing left to do but…
    The word for today is:
    wallering (verb) : to jump around on something; to not sit still; to romp around. Don’t get up here and waller around on me

  • Brocktoon

    How does this affect shark’s trade value?

  • Jim

    This turned into a delightful little humor piece.

    #7. Clubhouse guy.

  • CubFan Paul

    “I seem to recall that Paul Maholm and Scott Feldman said the same things”

    Not Feldman. He accepted his flip-fate from the start.


    • Scombs

      At least Feldman still said that he hoped to “stay here a long time.”

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’m not sure I read it the way you do:

      “That’s out of my control. I hope that I can pitch here this year and do well and stay here for a long time. But that kind of stuff’s out of my control. They’re going to do what’s best for the team, not only this year, but for the long-term. I’m just glad that I’m here and consider myself lucky to be a part of this organization.”

      • CubFan Paul

        It’s not night/day from Hammel’s quotes, but I’d say Feldman answered with a tad bit more class.

        It’s a rebuilding team, so of course reporters are going to ask rebuilding/flip questions

  • Big City Mick

    I’m guessing option #3 is what will occur. Hammel will pitch just meh, where attractive offers never present themselves. Although, there are now more options in trades like this being we could potentially trade for International spending pool money which, is also what could happen to players like Logan Watkins, Christian Villanueva, etc.

    • Rich H

      You got this backwards Mick, The Cubs will be selling IFA money not spending it. They can not sign anyone over 500k but are going to have the 4th most money.

  • Kyle

    His best bet to avoid being flipped is the Scott Baker Maneuver.

    • Fishin Phil

      A really bad sneeze and he could throw his back out. Hey, it happens.

      • NorthSideIrish

        Or if he spends too much time on the internet communicating with his family in Venezuela and develops an elbow problem.

        • CubFan Paul

          I call that “texting elbow” (my doctor laughed for 5 minutes).

          Been there. Lets not joke.

  • Edwin

    I’m guessing #4, or some combo of #5 and #6.

  • Javier Bryant

    How can we make that happen? By giving him a no trade clause! Tehehe

  • BenRoethig

    He knows exactly what he’s getting into. He’s just saying the right things for PR. There is no way that if he pitches at least to average effectiveness (and not injured) that he’s still on this team come August 1st.

    • D-Rock


  • http://obstructedview.net Myles

    If he didn’t want to be flipped, he maybe shouldn’t have signed here.

    • Eternal Pessimist

      I tend to read “i don’t want to be flipped” as “i want to be a Cub”. Hopefully there are a lot more guys like him out there.

  • Blackhawks1963

    Hammel is probably a #4 type starter on a good day. The Cubs have rolled the dice on similar guys in Maholm and Feldman, with the results turning out fantastic. The problem is that sort of luck on these “fringy” types is bound to run out…plus Hammel isn’t the healthiest specimen in contrast to Maholm and Feldman when they were here.

    • hansman

      Kinda like how our luck ran out on Baker last year?

      • DarthHater

        There is a 0% chance of the luck continuing.

        • mjhurdle

          25% chance the luck goes to the Dodgers, 75% chance it goes to the Yankees. Those cities have a stronger Luckian community, and that is important to the luck.
          You are delusional if you think the luck is coming to the Cubs.

          • hansman

            Plus, The Luck loves watching games on the Rooftops so The Luck hates In Over His HeadTommy Boy.

            • Rich H

              It is a good thing you all are not Colts fans.

        • Edwin

          Yeah, but you need to multiply that by the dice coin ratio deflator.

    • Jon

      I disagree with your opinion, but I’ll officially comment when you post this tomorrow.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    Given the makeup of the Cy Young pool, I’m not sure a guy with those peripherals could win the vote with 25 losses, even if the next closest candidate had a FIP over 5 and walked more than he struck out.

    Sadly, there are just too many people who think w/l is a valid pitching stat.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’m going to try to not even mention W/L this year on the site.

    • D-Rock

      Agreed. We are changing the category “Wins” to “Quality Starts” in my fantasy baseball league this year. It’s a much better indicator of a good pitcher.

  • ame1908

    Would it be crazy for the Cubs to consider an 11-man pitching staff? Seems like there are plenty of young, fringe players that need to get a look in the bigs (Watkins, Vitters, Jackson, Olt, Bonafacio, Coughlan, etc.). That said, I also think our pitching depth is such that guys like Grimm, Villanueva, and possibly McDonald could be stretched out from the pen to pick up the extra innings. This would give Renteria more flexibility with his bench and give some guys legitimate chances. Thoughts?

    • bbmoney

      I’m a big proponent of using an 11 or 10 man pitching staff to give you more flexibility with position players.

      But you can’t just do it without constructing the roster the right way. You’d need 3 or 4 of the 5 bullpen guys to be guys that can throw 3 or more innings at a time and you’d just have to use your relievers differently. None of that LOOGY stuff.

      Of course it’d also be easier to do in the AL when you wouldn’t have to pull a RP for a pinch hitter.

      • ame1908

        Now that I’m looking at it, probably won’t work.

        The (not-so-plausible) 11-man scenario…
        SPs: Shark, Wood, Jackson, Hammel, Arrieta/McDonald
        Short-arms: Strop, Veras, Russell, Wright (all of these guys are pretty much locked-in)
        Long-arms: Villanueva, Grimm

        But long-term, it would be interesting to see the Cubs use 3 long-men and 3 specialists from the pen. I just love the added flexibility off the bench for defense and other late-game scenarios.

        • bbmoney

          Yeah, I guess I kind of ignored your question .I agree, I don’t think the team is set up at all for a shorter bullpen this year. I think it’d be a bad idea for the Cubs to try it in 2014.

          I’m just a fan of that roster construction idea in general. You’d probably have to spend a year or two changing your organizational philosophy with guys in the minors and having them work multiple innings in the minors first and then also be smart about which RPs you’re signing as FAs too.

    • Blackhawks1963

      When your projected rotation includes Jackson, Hammel and McDonald its very hard to contemplate a short bullpen. Our rotation is too dubious not to carry an extra reliever. Or two.

    • brickhouse

      No chance going with an 11 man pitching staff. You need the 12 man pitching staff or you will burn out your bullpen. I’d rather baseball expend the roster to 26 or 27 man and then you could carry an extra arm or a couple extra bench players.

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    If Hammel doesn’t want to get flipped at the deadline then he came to the wrong place. Barring a miracle on the teams record at the trade deadline or that fact he is completely ineffective I don’t see how he would get flipped at the deadline

  • MichaelD

    Maybe this is just a variation on 6. He pitches pretty well, but suffers an injury (2-week DL stint) in July before they have a chance to trade him. Because he pitches too well early he can’t clear waivers in August. In this case he ends up actually pitching almost the whole year for the Cubs, is not a highly unlikely prediction (like winning the Cy Young) or requires the Cubs to mess up the trading market. All it requires is a little bad luck, and for the Cubs that is the standard luck.

  • Tommy

    Favorite article of all time. No. 2 – best paragraph ever.

  • FortyFour

    While I think we will experience any number of pleasant surprises this season, I am doubtful the Cubs will post a .500 start in the first two months of the season. Their schedule in April and May strikes me as fairly difficult, with numerous games against the Cardinals, Pirates, Reds, and then interleague series at home and away against the Yankees and the improved White Sox.

    I really see this as a year in which we continue to improve our future by giving guys Olt and Baez a shot as well as doing one last flip of 40% of the starting rotation, which in turn, will give guys like Hendricks and Arietta a chance to prove they are part of the rotation.

  • baldtaxguy

    Didn’t realize the arm injury was forearm. I thought the commentary was that he had an elbow problem?

    Looking forward to seeing him.

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  • chrissygirl6218

    Hey you didn’t finish option 1. Once were in the snow globe, it should be shaken to wake up to reality and file that pipe dream under ‘ Need to be high as kite to even consider’ I really think we could have a chance in 2016 when Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Alberto Almora, Kyle Hendricks, and who ever we get in the trade to an A.L. team of Dan Vogelbach, hopefully a good left handed pitcher, and Baez if he gets over his AAA struggles. I may be still hitting the pipe with that prediction, but at least it is more plausible than this year with Barney and Schierholtz. and the rest. Walking a batter with the bases loaded is a pet peeve of mine, but what they did last night made me wish I had the power of the lady in ‘The Ring’ and jump right though the TV and go jihad.are you kidding me? Do they understand situational awareness I don’t care if you have to throw all fast balls, not all fast balls go for home runs or even hit. At least it gives the team a chance. You have to know to be very careful inside in that situation. where’s Mitch Williams ? He would walk the bases loaded but then strike out the side. I bet you took your pay check too. with that stunt you should give it back and go back to the miner and learn how to pitch, Isn’t anyone else mad how that came ended? It was embarrassing! Go Cubs!

  • chrissygirl6218

    Sorry about the typos, I am the Queen of Typos and I have many loyal subjects