Cole Hamels had two different seasons with the 2019 Cubs — pre- and post-oblique injury.
Before he walked off the mound June 28 in Cincinnati: 17 starts, 2.98 ERA, 1.204 WHIP. There was even talk of him possibly being named to the N.L. All-Star team. Then he missed a month with the oblique injury, and after his return: 10 starts, 5.79 ERA, 1.833 WHIP. He showed flashes of his earlier form in his final outing against the Cardinals (four shutout innings, eight strikeouts), but the Cubs really missed first-half Hamels down the stretch.
Now, per Patrick Mooney in The Athletic, Hamels would like to stick around:
“I do understand what they have to go through, construct, identify,” Hamels said. “But I would love to be a Cub. And I know if it’s not the case, at least I left it out here. I wish I would have been able to do it a little bit better. I wish I was healthier in this situation. I do feel like I let them down. I let my teammates down, just because if I was at my best, I think the situation would be a lot different, so I do take that to heart.
This is a solid self-analysis. Hamels always seemed to give top effort, looked like he was a great teammate, and maybe he came back too fast from the oblique (he did so from a similar injury with the Rangers in 2017, with similar results).
Hamels is almost exactly the same age as Jon Lester (the two were born 11 days apart), and Lester struggled down the stretch in 2019, with lowered velocity and inability to have “the feel” for the baseball, as he often put it. But Hamels’ velocity was fine after the injury, he just struggled with command.
Here’s one reason the Cubs might want to think about keeping him:
“I obviously do very well at Wrigley,” said Hamels, who has a no-hitter and a 2.20 ERA through 25 career starts at The Friendly Confines. “Hopefully, that’s what they think about. Otherwise, I know the other teams in the division are going to think about it. If you have to come to Wrigley three different times, I don’t pitch bad there.”
Hamels laughed and said: “I know I do very well in the NL Central.”
Even if the career numbers are skewed from his younger days playing on contending Phillies teams, this is something to keep in mind if Hamels signs with a division rival:
• Hamels vs. Cincinnati: 11-2, 2.30 ERA (20 starts)
• Hamels vs. Milwaukee: 8-5, 3.53 ERA (20 starts)
• Hamels vs. Pittsburgh: 5-4, 2.52 ERA (13 starts)
• Hamels vs. St. Louis: 5-6, 2.21 ERA (17 starts)
Those numbers might be “skewed,” but Hamels did not allow an earned run in 19 innings against the Cardinals in 2019 and had a 3.29 ERA in five starts against the Brewers, lower than his career figure. He didn’t face the Pirates in 2019, but allowed them only one earned run in three starts (18 innings) in 2018. Against the Reds since he came to the Cubs, Hamels has a 3.91 ERA in five total starts, but it was much higher (8.59) in 2019.
Do you think the Cubs could get one, or two, more decent years out of Hamels? He seems the type of competitor who would work hard to get into playing shape before spring training, and the Cubs did get two reasonable years out of John Lackey after signing him at age 37 in 2016.
The first question is: Should the Cubs make Hamels a qualifying offer, in order to get draft pick compensation if he leaves? MLB Trade Rumors says this year’s QO should be around $18 million, and that Hamels likely accepts it if the Cubs make it:
Injuries prevented Hamels from enjoying another high-inning season, as he totaled just 141 2/3, though he was still effective. But whether Hamels was effective enough to merit a QO is iffy. Hamels, who will turn 36 in December, managed a 3.81 ERA/4.09 FIP with 9.08 K/9, 3.56 BB/9 and a 47.3 groundball percentage. Considering a QO wouldn’t be much of a step down from Hamels’ 2019 salary of $20MM, it’s likely he’ll give strong consideration to accepting it if the Cubs make the offer.
This is a fair analysis. $18 million would put a dent into the Cubs’ likely budget, so I wonder if offering Hamels a two-year deal at, say, $14 to $15 million per year might be more to his liking, giving him an extra year at a bit less money per year. After 2021, Hamels might wind up retiring, and he might want two more shots at playing for a contending team.
I think I’d be inclined to make Hamels the two-year offer. When healthy, he’s still one of the better lefthanders in the league — and especially since he generally pitches well against the Cubs’ division rivals, and has pitched very well at Wrigley Field.
This poll is closed
... sign him to a two-year deal for (about) $30 million
... make him a qualifying offer, which he likely accepts
... let him go to free agency without a QO
... something else (leave in comments)