A little sparring match between old friends?
I can make an argument for why Cole Hamels doesn’t make sense as the ideal acquisition right now for the Chicago Cubs (I’ve made it many times before), and I could make an argument for why Hamels doesn’t make sense as the ideal acquisition right now for the Boston Red Sox.
But I could also make an argument that Hamels makes sense for both clubs right now, and, based on reports out of Chicago and Boston, it seems like the organizations might lean that way.
As I mentioned briefly in the Lukewarm Stove last night, Dave Kaplan is reporting that the Cubs are “chasing” Hamels, and are involved in discussions with the Phillies about the lefty. The rationale, of course, is that Hamels impacts not only this year’s race for the Cubs, but also comes with a few more years of not-egregiously-expensive team control ($22.5 million per year), plus a $20 million team option ($6 million buyout) for a fourth year thereafter. To be sure, nothing in my position on Hamels precludes an interest in the Cubs picking him up – he’s awesome, and the contract is perfectly fine. Instead, I question whether it might not be the better approach to pick up a much cheaper (in prospects) rental this year, and then explore the extremely robust (not just at the top, but also in the intriguing middle, where the Cubs have had so much success in recent years) free agent pitching market.
If the Cubs prefer Hamels over most of the other options, however, then this is the time to get him.
And that’s probably what animates the Red Sox’s interest, too, as Jayson Stark is reporting. The Red Sox, who were also connected to Hamels (with the Cubs) earlier in the week by Stark, are almost certainly out of the playoff hunt this year. As of this writing, BP pegs them for a mere 2.1% chance at making the playoffs. But if they view Hamels – and his shorter-term contract – as particularly desirable, then the onus is on them to acquire him now, because now is when he might be traded.
That said, Hamels should have more value to a team like the Cubs (or Dodgers), because he can provide something of use this year – high use, in fact, as playoff pushes are very valuable – in addition to the next few years. In other words, teams like the Cubs and Dodgers should be willing to pay a higher price for Hamels. And, since the Dodgers – as one previously-reported interested example – have a much better shot at a division crown than the Cubs, they should have more incentive than the Cubs.
Hamels, 31, has a 3.91 ERA this year, but his peripherals are all pretty much in line with his recent great seasons. His velocity is where it usually is, he’s been consistently healthy in his career, and is in good shape. As with the Jon Lester signing, Hamels is probably a good bet to age well, and that could factor into his desirability.
Although the Phillies cannot expect to get multiple elite talents for Hamels – probably not even if they ate salary – they could get multiple top 100 types, plus quite a bit more. If the Cubs are serious about pursuing Hamels, you should steel yourself against the possibility that it would cost many of the Cubs’ current top prospects, especially when you consider the quality that the Red Sox or Dodgers would have to offer if they get involved.