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The Cubs And Cole Hamels

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Most of the offseason talk has centered around the Cubs signing Jon Lester to get an "ace." What if they made a trade instead?

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Free-agent lefthander Jon Lester would seem to be at the top of the Cubs' wish list for this offseason. The reasons have been stated here and elsewhere many times: lefthanded, never injured, playoff experience, a previous relationship with the current Cubs front office.

It was reported last summer that the Cubs put in a waiver claim on the Phillies' Cole Hamels, but the Phillies pulled back the lefthander and nothing happened. Presumably, that claim wasn't just for show and the Cubs are actually interested in acquiring Hamels.

Hamels and Lester have many similarities. Beyond both being lefthanded, they're almost exactly the same age; Hamels is 11 days older. Lester's career ERA is slightly higher (3.58 to 3.27), likely a product of American League pitching. Hamels has made a few more starts (274 to 252) and thrown more innings (1801⅓ to 1596). Their ERA+ is similar (125 for Hamels, 121 for Lester). Hamels has also accumulated more bWAR (40.4 to Lester's 32.6).

Hamels had a minor injury (biceps tendinitis) that cost him a couple of starts at the beginning of the 2014 season, but he didn't miss a start after that and had another outstanding season. His 6.6 WAR was second in the National League among pitchers, trailing only Clayton Kershaw.

Both are outstanding pitchers. Lester will likely cost more money; it's already known what Hamels will be paid over the next four years. He's owed $90 million through 2018 and there's a team option for $20 million for 2019 or a $24 million vesting option for that year which vests if he throws 400 innings combined in 2017 and 2018 and is not on the DL with a shoulder or elbow injury at the end of 2018.

So the most Hamels would be owed if the Cubs took on his contract is $114 million for five years, an average of $22.8 million per season. Lester would cost at least that much, perhaps more, and might ask for more years.

Hamels would cost players, as the Cubs would have to trade for him. Who would they have to give up?

Which one of these potential deals would be better for the Cubs? They're not going to get both of them, I wouldn't think. So I thought I'd open this one up for discussion on an otherwise slow day.