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jason hammel featureThis morning started with an overnight report from Jon Heyman that the Chicago Cubs and Jason Hammel were nearing a deal, and it sounds like that’s coming to a head this morning.

Multiple reports are now confirming not only Heyman’s report, but taking it a step further and indicating that a deal is going to happen.

Take your pick of reports on Twitter:

I could go on. It seems that word got out right around the same time that it was happening.

I’ll reserve final analysis and evaluation until we hear the terms of the deal, but tentatively I’m pretty happy about this. Hammel was not only excellent for the Cubs last year – and explainably not-that-bad with the A’s – but he’s quietly been pretty darn good for a long time. As a second tier option, middle-of-the-rotation type, he’s great.

Here’s what I said last month about the possibility of bringing Hammel back, and why he might make sense as the team’s top second tier option:

The argument for Hammel would go something like this:

  • You don’t want to put too much stock in small samples, but, whatever the Cubs and Hammel were doing together last season clearly worked with aplomb: 2.98 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 3.21 xFIP over 108.2 innings. 24.2% K rate, 5.4% BB rate. The BABIP was a little low, the LOB% was a little high, and the HR/FB ratio was a touch lower than you’d expect. But none were so out of whack as to explain away his excellent performance overall (hence the nice FIP and xFIP).

  • After going to the A’s, Hammel’s numbers regressed a bit, but the biggest change was a HR/FB ratio that rocketed up to 15.3% – a figure that is almost always unsustainably high (10% is about average). Further, if you knock out his first four starts with the A’s (ugly stuff), his ERA/FIP/xFIP line with the A’s was 2.49/4.36/3.77. I know, I know. Everyone looks good if you cut out their bad starts. But, hey, maybe he needed a couple weeks to adjust to the trade. Or something.

  • Speaking of post-trade explanations for things, Hammel’s slider and curveball usage dropped quite a bit after the trade (his sinker usage dipped a tiny bit, too), in favor of more four-seamers (Brooks). Batters weren’t doing diddly-poop against his slider and curve last year, but were having some success against his four-seamer. Whether the A’s made a conscious decision to change his mix, or whether Hammel’s arm was wearing down from the breaking stuff late, I can’t say for sure. But it’s clear that his mix was slightly different – and less effective – after going to the A’s. Maybe if he comes back to the Cubs, something clicks again.

  • Prior to coming to the Cubs, Hammel was always an effective starter when healthy. He even mixed in some excellent years, and, just last year (2013), he was the Orioles’ Opening Day starter.

  • To the extent it matters, Hammel also has experience with Joe Maddon, as Hammel’s first three years in the big leagues coincided with Maddon’s first three years as a manager in Tampa Bay.

  • Perhaps there’s a chance that the feelings between Hammel and the Cubs are so positive that he takes a better deal, relatively speaking, than the Cubs could get from other second tier options. No, I don’t think Hammel is going to shave a year or $10 million off his demand just because it’s the Cubs, but maybe the sides find it easier to come to a mutually-agreeable figure. Hammel is projected by most to get a three-year deal worth about $27 to $30 million. To me, he’s easily worth that.

UPDATE: Chris Cotillo reports that the deal could be in the two-year, $18 million range, possibly with a club option at the end. That would not only be a great deal for the Cubs, it would be so insanely good as to make me question if it’s real. Jon Morosi has said he’s “confirming” Cotillo’s report, but he only mentions the aspect of it being for multiple years. We already knew that would be true.

So, on the balance, I’m going to hold back for a moment. Maybe it’s 2/$18M with a $12M club option ($2M buyout) or something like that, making it actually 2/$20M or 3/$30M, if the option is exercised. That seems more realistic, but still fantastic for the Cubs.

UPDATE 2: Morosi updates, and I might be really good at guessing things:

If I’m reading that correctly, it sounds like a mutual option, where the Cubs have to go first – either they decline that third year and pay him $2 million, or they pick it up (we still don’t know how much it is, but I bet it’s $10 to $12 million), and then Hammel can decide to decline and become a free agent (in which case he doesn’t get the $2 million buyout).

UPDATE 3: Cotillo has a full write-up now, which confirms that it’s $9 million in 2015, $9 million in 2016, and then a club option for 2017 with a $2 million buyout (meaning the total guarantee here is at least two years and $20 million (that’s still a steal of a deal – but a nice guarantee for Hammel, too)). No word yet on the amount of the club option (I’ll test my guessing luck and say it’s gonna be $12 million) or the precise nature of the option (i.e., was Morosi describing the kind of mutual option I discussed in the last update? I think probably yes).

UPDATE 4: Jon Heyman says the option is $10 million, so it could wind up 3/$28 million for the Cubs if they are happy with Hammel’s performance and want him back in 2017. This is such a good deal, man.

UPDATE 5: Actually, Gordon Wittenmyer says:

Which is EXACTLY what I guessed, so I’m going to choose to believe Wittenmyer is correct. Great deal for everyone.

UPDATE 6: Mooney hears it’s the same as Wittenmyer, so that’s your deal. $9 million in 2015, $9 million in 2016, and a $12 million club option for 2017 with a $2 million buyout. Whether the option has a mutual component (i.e., Hammel can decline after the Cubs pick it up) remains unconfirmed, but, again, that’s what Morosi’s report was indicating.

UPDATE 7: And probably the final update on this for the day, Morosi clarifies what is apparently a pretty unique option for the Cubs/Hammel:

I like the creativity there. If Hammel is an absolute stud in 2016, he’s not locked into staying with the Cubs for just $12 million and one year (when he might otherwise be having his last chance to get a big deal), but the Cubs don’t have to pay the $2 million buyout (and they would have just gotten a studly version of Hammel for two years and $18 million total).

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