Cubs Trying to Make a Trade Before Picking Up Cole Hamels Option? (UPDATE: Just Thinking)

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Cubs Trying to Make a Trade Before Picking Up Cole Hamels Option? (UPDATE: Just Thinking)

Chicago Cubs

The deadline to make a decision on Cole Hamels’ $20 million club option for next year looms tomorrow, and it sounds like the Cubs are still on the fence about picking it up.

More than that, they may be trying to coordinate another move with the decision:

At first blush, that might strike you as odd, but I suppose it’s always important to remember that there’s a budget at some point, and right now, we don’t know what that budget for 2019 projects to be.

That said … given the payroll situation, the revenue situation, and the expected turnover this offseason, I don’t think this is simply a matter of the Cubs “can’t afford” Hamels unless they first clear salary. They want to keep him, and they can afford him at that price. But that doesn’t mean you just pick up the option or decline the option without first exploring some things.

Instead, I think this is more likely a sign that the Cubs simply don’t want to guarantee that Hamels is on the books at $20 million in AAV for 2019 unless they know for sure they’re going to be able to clear out salary elsewhere. In turn, that could be for one of two reasons: (1) They’re still going to try to stay under the first tier of the luxury tax (which would really suck, and be borderline absurd given the state of the window, the composition of the roster, the makeup of this free agent class, and the coming TV deal); or (2) They know they want to be able to make other big financial commitments later this offseason and intend to stay under the top tier of the luxury tax (in which case, for example, there simply isn’t room to retain Hamels *and* go after Bryce Harper or Manny Machado).

I tend to think number two is most likely – it’s a scenario we foresaw when breaking down the payroll commitments – but it’s hard not to always worry about number one, no matter how much the Cubs are generating in revenue.

As for not being able to ink Hamels to a longer-term deal before the deadline, that’s not a surprise, as we’ve discussed. This is a 35-year-old pitcher who’s never had a trip through free agency. He’s a little hard to value given his surge with the Cubs and down year and a half with the Rangers, so him wanting to see what the market has to say makes plenty of sense.

Still, I take Rosenthal at his very logical word that the Cubs would like to still be in the Cole Hamels business. Even if things do not come to fruition tomorrow, he can still be re-signed eventually in free agency.

But maybe things will get wild and exciting tomorrow. Who knows. There are not a lot of obvious big contracts the Cubs could move without being REALLY creative (i.e., trading someone shocking or trading someone obvious but eating a bunch of salary and including prospects), so I’d be spraying a shotgun in trying to speculate who is on the block in this kind of scenario.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: I slept on this and came up with something of an ideal scenario that the Cubs might want to explore before picking up Hamels’ option. Why not try, right? With a glut of starting pitching and a ton of money wrapped up in Tyler Chatwood, perhaps the Cubs would explore the idea of pairing Addison Russell – who still probably has some trade value to other teams – with Chatwood, plus a good bit of money, for a modest return. Then, the 2019 impact of picking up Hamels’ option would be close to neutral, which maybe is something the Cubs need if they were laying out the budget months and months ago, long before Hamels even entered the picture as a guy they wanted to retain.

There’s also this possibility:

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.