While there is undoubtedly something supremely special about a long-time Chicago Cubs player coming back – think Kerry Wood, for example – there’s something cool in a different way about a guy who played for the Cubs for just a few months, and then made it a priority to get back immediately after he was traded away.
That’s the story of Jason Hammel, whom the Cubs re-signed this week to a two-year, $20 million deal, just five months after they traded him to Oakland. Not only did he perform exceptionally well with the Cubs, he also seemed like he fit in right from the get-go, immediately hitting it off with teammates, the front office, and, perhaps most importantly, pitching coach Chris Bosio. (I remember reading about Bosio making effusive comments about Hammel all the way back in Spring Training, how he was a beast and was going to dominate, and that kind of thing.)
You don’t have to like every Cubs player to enjoy the team and the sport, and feel passionate about your fandom. But, let’s be honest: it’s always a little easier and more fun when you feel like the guys for whom you’re cheering are also cool dudes who truly enjoy being a part of the team. Hammel is that guy.
Also important: he has a nice bum.
Long story short: it’s cool to have this guy back in Chicago, for all kinds of reasons. He met with the media yesterday to discuss his return, and you can read about his comments here, here, here, here, and here, among other places. Some of the highlights:
- Hammel figures he left money and/or years on the table to return to the Cubs, but he doesn’t care. This is where he wanted to be, for himself, and for his family. And he called the Cubs his family away from his family.
- Hammel mentioned that part of his return is the idea that the Cubs aren’t just adding flashy pieces (or flip pieces) – they’re committed to winning. “We’re tired of the old Cubs. This is the new Cubs.”
- Theo Epstein complimented not only Hammel’s pitching ability, but also his leadership and clubhouse presence.
- Apparently Epstein wanted to make sure he would be Hammel’s first call in free agency, and he was. Clearly, these two sides absolutely wanted to reunite from the moment that trade went down (and now the Cubs have excellent outfield prospect Billy McKinney (and the portion of Addison Russell that came from including Hammel in the deal), together with Hammel back, to show for it). Seriously, the series of Hammel-related transactions in 2014 – the signing, the trade, the re-signing – could not have been executed better.
- Hammel said some great things about Jon Lester, who was his teammate in Oakland for the final couple months of the season (and who picked Hammel’s and Jeff Samardzija’s brains about Chicago and the Cubs). He thinks the Cubs got a great deal on their six-year, $155 million signing.
- Similarly, Hammel said some great things about manager Joe Maddon, with whom he spent time in Tampa Bay, early in his career.
- A couple videos from the press conference: