Cole Hamels is Still a Free Agent – Anyone Know a Team That Needs a Starting Pitcher?

Even before Kohl Stewart, Alec Mills, and Robert Stock had to step into the rotation to cover for some injured starters, the Chicago Cubs had problems.

Kyle Hendricks is dependable, sure, but that’s about it. Zach Davies, who’s been awesome lately, is still not a guy you expect to cover a ton of innings (both from start-to-start or over the course of the season). Adbert Alzolay, who’s been a revelation this season, was never expected to approach even 180 innings this year (he maxed out at 120.1 IP back in 2016). And Jake Arrieta and Trevor Williams are going to be inconsistent, even at their best and when they’re healthy.

But the Cubs are contending in mid-June, and they deserve to have holes patched, if necessary, from outside the organization. Unfortunately, any designs you may have on landing a top-shelf starter via trade will probably have to wait. Those guys may be on the move eventually – and the Cubs could certainly become involved – but not until late July, if not the Trade Deadline, itself. That’s just the nature of the market. Brett has discussed this kind of interim pitching acquisition recently.

So if Williams is not coming back particularly soon (we’ve no indication that he’s even close to a rehab assignment yet), if Arrieta is going to be so hit-and-miss, and if you prefer to keep Alec Mills as a long-man/swing guy, well, the Cubs need a starter now. None of that is new information, but it just seems to feel more and more pressing as the days go on.

I also raise it today because an old friend’s name popped up on the info circuit:

In an ideal world, the Cubs could pick up a starting pitcher off the free agent market to buy themselves some time – and innings – before the Trade Deadline, when more serious decisions would have to be made. But can Hamels really be that guy?

We know that he was solid with the Cubs in his last full season in 2019, but what happened since then?

If you can believe it, Hamels has made just ONE start since pitching in a Cubs uniform. Here’s what happened, via Tim Dierkes:

Back in December 2019, the Braves signed the veteran southpaw to a one-year contract, just shy of his 36th birthday ….

He reported to camp with irritation in his left shoulder stemming from an offseason workout.  The expected normal Opening Day was ruled out, and by April 6th Hamels was said to be pain-free, and he was expected to be ready for the “new” Opening Day.  However, triceps tendinitis popped up, and Hamels wouldn’t make his lone Braves start until September 16th.  He returned to the IL with shoulder fatigue after the 52-pitch outing.  The Braves’ contract with Hamels was tied with Marcell Ozuna as the largest one-year deal of the 2019-20 offseason, and the club got nothing to show for it.

So Hamels signed a one-year, $18M deal, but was slowed with left shoulder irritation and eventually missed (effectively) the entire season with tricep tendinitis. And, so, I won’t make this more than it is: At age 37, after missing an entire season with an injury, Cole Hamels is not going to be some big-time pickup. That’s not what you should expect. Buuuut, again, that’s also not really what the Cubs need him to be.

The Cubs would simply need Hamels to be healthy and capable of delivering innings for the next few months. The big-time “go for it” trade can be made some other time, if the team’s performance justifies it at that point. Which is exactly the concern: I’m worried that without someone like Hamels now-ish, the Cubs might not make it to the point where they can justifiably add a more impactful starting pitcher.

As a free agent, Cole Hamels costs nothing more than money to acquire. That’s a rare opportunity mid-season. And, of course, the Cubs probably have as much recent information on him as any team besides the Braves. Plus there’s the past relationship with a club where Hamels had success.

Now, with all of that said, no, Hamels might not be my first choice for this interim acquisition type. I’d prefer a guy who is already pitching, who doesn’t have an injury concern or a long absence, and who is more of a sure-fire, innings-eating starter. But, hey, I guess so would everybody. Injuries are absolutely decimating the league this season (I count 65 starting pitchers currently on the IL), and as long as he looks healthy, Hamels will probably have some significant interest from teams like the Yankees, Rays, Reds, Cardinals, Giants, and Phillies (just some educated guesses).

So long story short, the Cubs might be uniquely positioned to re-acquire Cole Hamels. They have the need, they know him well, he’s available for only money, and he’s available right now. There will be competition, but the Cubs are as desperate for innings as any team out there. As a bridge piece to a more significant external rotation addition, you can do worse than Hamels.

Hopefully he can get to a showcase soon so that the ball can be set into motion sooner rather than later.

written by

Michael Cerami began covering the Chicago Cubs for Bleacher Nation as a part-time contributor in 2015. One year later, he joined Bleacher Nation full-time, covering the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball. Today, Michael runs Bleacher Nation, contributing as a writer (Cubs, MLB) and an editor for all sections of the site, including the Chicago Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks, as well as MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. In 2019, Michael was the co-host of NBC Sports Chicago's Cubs Post-Game Show Outside the Ivy. You can find him on Twitter/X @Michael_Cerami

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