Expectations for Cole's Next Contract – Phillies Nation

Expectations for Cole's Next Contract

Cole Hamels enters the 2011 season as the youngest of the heralded Phillies starting rotation, having just turned 27 this past December. He’s already pitched four full seasons – plus the majority of a fifth – in the Major Leagues, and has established himself as a premier pitcher entering his prime.

The problem that comes attached to every premier player is, of course, money. There’s no sense of panic in Hamels’s case, as he and the Phillies still maintain an arbitration-eligible year of control in 2012, but as Cole continues to perform, his price continues to go up. Among a roster that already features multiple large contracts that go beyond 2012, will the Phillies have room in the payroll for Hamels, and still be able to field a full, competitive roster?

These and other concerns discussed after the jump.

Right now, there are more pressing contractual issues for the Phillies to handle. Hamels having an extra year of control means Charlie Manuel, Jimmy Rollins, Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson get more attention in their respective potential walk years. We can expect Manuel back, as many indications seem to be that, even as spring approaches with no new deal in hand, Cholly and the Phillies will work something out.

Cole Hamels will need to get paid soon. What's his worth?

As for the remaining three, some questions remain. Rollins, in the middle of what appears to be a precipitous offensive decline, is making $8.5 million in 2011. Should his bat continue to evaporate – .875, .786, .719 and .694 have been J-Roll’s OPSes since 2007 – Rollins may be perceived as a rather noticeable offensive liability. The thing that sets Rollins apart, though, has been and always will be his stellar defense. As long as he performs at an elite level at short, his disappearing bat can actually be tolerated. Compounding that issue, of course, is a lack of near-ready shortstop prospects. Right now, it’s either Rollins or a free agent in 2012, and judging by the list of projected free agents next winter, I think Jimmy is the best fit. I’d expect him back, but he’ll probably fetch $9-10 million annually. Add that to the tab.

One of Lidge/Madson will not be back in 2012. This team operates under the typical sense of bullpen management, with one pitcher designated for close games in the ninth inning, and Madson’s rising star may not fit in any other role for much longer. He’s making less than $5 million this year, and agent Scott Boras may look for something more along the lines of $7+ million per season for Madson’s next deal. This much is guaranteed: whether it’s for the Phillies or some other team, Ryan Madson will be a closer next season. If both he and Lidge leave – Lidge’s $12.5 million option for 2012 seems unlikely to be exercised at this point – there may be added financial flexibility for a new Hamels deal, but the bullpen’s depth takes a dramatic dive.

Taking a step back from the micro issues for a second, these are the positions that will be open after the World Series ends:

  • Shortstop: Rollins, as mentioned.
  • Left Field: Raul Ibanez‘s three-year deal expires after this season, and he’s unlikely to return.
  • Starting Pitcher: If Roy Oswalt isn’t healthy, isn’t effective or is deemed too expensive for his $16M club option – for which the Phils are receiving no money from Houston – he may not be back. Or, as some light speculation suggests, he may retire.
  • Bullpen Depth: Madson, Lidge, Danys Baez and J.C. Romero are in the final years of their deals (plus Lidge’s noted option). As much Doc, Lee, Cole and Joe can eat innings, the club will actually need relievers.
  • Bench Depth: Including backup catcher Brian Schneider, two bench spots will likely need to be replaced. Schneider and pinch-hit specialist Ross Gload are approaching free agency.

Some spots could be filled internally, of course, but Domonic Brown looks to be the only young prospect set to be ready to contribute at a potentially high level in the next two season. Others may emerge as being potentially ready, but right now, most of the big help – Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, et. al – is multiple years away.

Bringing this all back to the issue at hand: how much can the Phillies afford to pay Hamels? Or, better yet, can they afford not to pay him? Should Hamels and the Phillies go to arbitration next February, the likelihood of a new deal is sure to decrease. Arbitration hearings are notorious for alienating players, and when they don’t, they can end up resulting in massive overpays.

Rest assured, Cole Hamels on the open market will be one of the most highly sought players in the league. Luckily, Cliff Lee‘s new contract seems to bust the conventional wisdom held in the Phillies’ front office that deals longer than three years for pitchers are taboo. Now, Lee could be the exception to the rule instead of the bearer of change, but if another exception is to be made, Hamels looks to be as prime a candidate as any. Among an aging – albeit still effective – roster, Hamels is the front-runner to be the best player on the Phillies over the next five years, Halladay and Lee included. This young, homegrown talent has already accomplished so much, and is just entering his prime. He appears in line to receive – and is, for all intents and purposes, deserving and worthy of – a five- or six-year deal worth around $90 million.

The Phillies have entered a new era; they’re willing to pay lots of money to acquire (or retain) players they see as building blocks to a championship. Before various arbitration cases, potential option pick-ups and supplemental free agent signings, the Phillies have approximately $112 million committed to 11 players in 2012, and at least $50 million to as few as two (!) players in each of the next four years. That’s a lot of money. Luckily, people want to see this team play. Citizens Bank Park will almost certainly sell out for the 200th straight time later this season, and merchandise sales never seem to slip, especially when trademarkable phrases seem to continuously come into play (see: “funner,” etc.). The Phillies will need to rely on their fanbase – hey, that’s you! – and a competitive team to be able to afford these mega-contracts. If it becomes a struggle to afford these deals, players like Hamels may leave for greener pastures. Almost literally.

Time remains for the Phillies to decide if they can afford yet another large contract on their books. In Hamels’s case, he happens to be worth it, at least as we sit here today at the dawn of a new slate of spring training games. He’s proven durable enough to make 30-plus starts per year, and effective enough to have the 15th-most strikeouts of any pitcher in his first five seasons since 1901.

Cole Hamels is good. Real good. He was drafted and groomed by the Phillies, and rewarded the club by being a key part of a championship team. He’s done his part. Will the Phillies do theirs?

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  1. yrsoprano

    February 16, 2011 at 9:57 am

    My gut feeling is that the Phillies will not resign Cole Hamels. They wanted Lee, they paid for Lee and they will have Lee for at least 5 years. That makes me think Cole is expendable. I’m not sure he will be with the club for the entire 2011 campaign. I think it would be a mistake to not resign him since he is the youngest of the 4 with the highest upside for years to come. And, lefties with such proven talent at a young age don’t grow on trees. His stats stand on their own. I don’t think home-grown talent will mean too much to Amaro when the time comes. CC Sabathia may choose to opt out in New York and it’s been whispered that he would like to play with his friend Lee. If that happens, I see Cole Hamels getting a huge payday with the Yankees. 2 people have worn a WS MVP uniform for this team: Mike Schmidt and Cole Hamels. He deserves to be rewarded accordingly.

    • Ryan Sommers

      February 16, 2011 at 10:19 am

      I don’t know if I agree with that. If we can say one thing definitively about Ruben Amaro Jr., it’s that he places a high amount of value in elite starting pitching. Whatever else you might think about him, I think he realizes that Cole Hamels’ combination of age and talent project him to be the most valuable member of this current staff in the long run, not to mention one of the most valuable players in the league. Combine that with Cole stating the other day that he wanted to play in Philly for the majority of his career, and I think Ruben won’t hesitate to pursue him to the fullest extent.

  2. Don M

    February 16, 2011 at 10:24 am

    If the Phillies were to approach Cole Hamels right now… and offer him a 4 year, $60 M deal … buying out his final arbitration year, and his first 3 years of Free Agency … Would he sign it? … I would expect that the deal could be backloaded to ease the pain of too many players making more than $15 M in that first season

    but something like
    $10 M in 2012,
    $13 M in 2013
    $17 M in 2014
    $20 M in 2015

    It would give him financial security.. and still allow him a chance at another big pay-day after the 2015 season.. when he would be about Cliff Lee’s age now … and in the final years of that deal we won’t have Oswalt, or Halladay on the books anymore …. and our next young crop of pitchers will be in arbitration years making something along the lines of $5 M give or take

    I dont think Rollins will be able to command $10 M …. I threw out a figure of $16-20 M total over 2 years with an option for a 3rd year, because I think the Phillies have to give him a legit offer in order for him to not test the waters. He should retire a Phillies – not to the point where the Yankees paid Jeter WAY MORE than he’s worth.. but I think something around $8 M per season, with high Gold Glove incentives, etc.. would be a nice contract for Rollins

  3. bfo_33

    February 16, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Paul, I think you are going to test the router with this post.

    It’s going to be interesting. It’s hard to believe for the older phans, but the Phils are one of the 5 “big boys” – NYY, Bos, Phils, ChiCubs, and Angels, who are willing to spend.

    2 factors play into it – the Phils and Cole. From the Phils perspective – they paid Halladay and Lee. Halladay took a pretty big discount, Lee slightly less. Phils broke from their philosophy and went longer than 3 yrs. My opinion is that Oswalt will not be back next year, especially if he gets a ring this year. While Doc, Lee, and three arms compares favorably to just about every other rotation in the league, it’s not the clear top. They need the third guy to support an aging everyday line-up potentially in decline. They don’t need Cole, but he’s pretty desirable, and they’ll give a fair offer.

    The other part is Cole – does he harbor any resentment from previous dealings with the front office? Does he want to break the bank (may already have two rings)? Does he want to stay in Philly? Deos he want to be “the Guy”? 2 yrs ago, I’d say Cole will test the market. I really think Cole has matured over the past year, found that being the #2 or 3 takes a lot of pressure off without a significant paycheck hit. I could see Cole going for a 5yr contract with the Phils (he’s been durable, no reason to think he won’t have another contract after that) at a slight discount (high teens per year).

    The rest of the group – I don’t think the Phils even mention a new contract to Rollins until the season is over. If he’s Jimmy of 2006-2009, it will be a decent deal (3 yr with an option, @ $10M a year), if it is a repeat of 2010, at best he’ll get a 1 yr incentive based deal. Lidge, Gload, and Ibanez won’t be back, but they’ll do their best with Madson (kind of a waste to have those starters without a closer). I don’t see Rube and Boras playing well together, though. Phils will give a take it or leave it offer, and it will be up to Madson.

    • Don M

      February 16, 2011 at 10:56 am

      bfo …..

      They bought out his arbitration years… giving him gauranteed money and security.. I wouldn’t think there would be any resentment from previous dealings. I think Cole is a pretty laid back guy, and I could see him either staying here, or chooising a Southern California team to be closer to home (though he now lives in Center City).. Hamels strikes me as the kind of guy that would rather stay put and keep a good thing going than to chase a few extra dollars for a few extra years …. and I think the same with Rollins

      • Ted Bell

        February 16, 2011 at 11:53 am

        Don – As far as the fabled “Home Town Discount” goes – for years the population of St. Louis thought the same thing about Albert Pujols. You just don’t know until a player reaches free agency.

        I’m Ted Bell.

      • bfo_33

        February 16, 2011 at 12:04 pm

        I agree….in theory. I also think Cole is in a different place than he was even 1-1/2 yrs ago (partly him maturing, partly city embracing him). If I’m Cole’s agent, I build a contract similar to Sabbathia’s (not quite the $$$$s, but the structure), take a slight discount, but include an opt out clause in 2 or 3 yrs.

        A lot is going to depend on Brown, Ben Fran, Rollins, and the Farm. Worst case scenario, we could need two corner outfielders and a ss next year, and a few arms at LV may be ready for the big leagues. If that is the case, maybe the money goes elsewhere. If we’re solid all around, more for Cole. An interesting diversion, but I’m not too worried about 2012.

  4. Chuck

    February 16, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Cole seems different than Albert Pujols. Just my opinion. I really don’t know what I’m basing my opinion on and I could be wrong. But I agree that Cole SEEMS like a laid-back guy that wants to stay put. Albert SEEMS like the sort that’s chasing the $$.

    • Dropped Strike Three

      February 16, 2011 at 12:16 pm

      I would agree… and as well as he performed under pressure in the past, I think a mid rotation role fits him perfectly. I get the feeling that he might be even more inclined to work out a deal with the Phillies given that he will be the #2-4 starter for the duration of just about any deal he works out.

    • Bruce

      February 16, 2011 at 12:56 pm

      @Chuck: “Albert SEEMS like the sort that’s chasing the $$.” Reminds me of a former Phillie named Werth. (chuckles)

  5. Paul Boye

    February 16, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    I have to admit, I’m very pleased with the level of discourse thus far. Good ideas being tossed around. Keep it up, dames and gents.

  6. Don M

    February 16, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    unlike Albert Pujols …. Cole Hamels isn’t the best player in baseball, and a lock for the Hall of Fame..

    I think Pujols will stay with St. Louis, but we’ll have to wait and see. If the Phillies offer cole a contract before they NEED to…. and give him financial sercurity without him having to worry about next year, and the following years with no contract.. I think he would definitely be open to staying here.. and I don’t know how much of a “home town discount” a $60 M, 4 year deal would be … but the fact that they would buy an arbitration year has to count for a lot.

    Cole Hamels IS a #1 PITCHER… he just happens to be in the best rotation in baseball. Since the Phillies give him a great chance to win every year, that makes him want to stay here, and leave a few million on the table… Like Lee just did, Like Halladay did, like Howard probably did… like Utley did a few years ago. Financial Security combined with a strong chance of postseason baseball trumps EXTRA millions in a lot of cases.. And if Cole wants to take the most money ala Jayson Werth .. I’ll wish him the best of luck and can’t say that I blame him

    If the Phillies give anyone an opt-out clause in their contract, they are morons.. I hope that Sabathia leaves NYC and goes to Anaheim next year

    • Bruce

      February 16, 2011 at 1:12 pm

      @Don M: You’re obviously right that Hamels IS a #1 pitcher (for any other club) and was the ACE during the Phillies World Championship season (2008). So in this day and age where salaries are beyond belief for players like Werth (chuckling), I think your suggested contract offer of $60 M, 4 year deal for Hamels is unrealistic. GM Amaro knows he will have to make a comparable offer that an ace on any other club would receive. The question in my mind is can Amaro afford it or specifically can he afford not to (loss of Hamels)?

      • Don M

        February 16, 2011 at 1:38 pm

        The Phillies are in a great spot to be able to “take advantage” of the fact that Hamels has an arbitration year left…

        The following scenario is Very realistic . . .
        Hamels declines a low-offer $ extension from the Phillies, and chooses to go to arbitration next year.. At arbitration he is awarded $x … (we’ll say $13 M for the sake of it) …

        He then has to pitch injury free that whole year… and live up to expectations.. which a lot of players can do.

        If he doesn’t want that much stress/pressure/uncertainty …. he can sign an extension with the Phillies, which would not pay him the same as he MIGHT get on the open market… but it would allow him to earn great deal of money, stay in the same city he’s called home for the past 4 years … and at the end of said deal .. would have a chance to go seek another solid deal … as lefty pitchers are always in high demand .. and as a Non Power Pitcher.. Hamels should stand to have a lengthy career IF he can stay healthy …

        There is a lot of risk involved in all of this … but if the Phillies are willing to offer him a FAIR deal.. somehwere in the area of $15 M per season … instead of the $17-20 M he could seemingly get as a Free Agent .. I think there is a very good chance he would sign that deal and take the peace of mind for the next 4 seasons

  7. NateB

    February 16, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Phils need youth- they must keep Hamels. His best years are ahead of him.

  8. Pat Gallen

    February 16, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    I have a feeling Cole is going to wait this thing out until the last minute. Either he goes back into arb and gets $13+ million (depending on how he finishes out the contract) or the Phillies will have to offer him something like 4 years, $70 million. I see that being the roundabout number. Perhaps with a 5th year mutual option in there too. Break it down like $14, $18, $19, $19MM maybe. Somewhere in that range.

    And at 32, he should still (hopefully) be worth $19MM per.

  9. bfo_33

    February 16, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Pat, that’s huge with Cole. He isn’t negotiating for his last contract (unlike Werth and Pujols). He can take a reasonable 4 yr contract, knowing that he probably has another big payday coming. if not, he’ll still never want for anything.

    In regards to Pujols, he’s looking at dollars that is beyond my comprehension. The difference between $200M and $300M isn’t life changing – not like he’ll have to make a decision between a used Subaru vs a new Mercedes. With that said, he is recognized as the best player in baseball – shouldn’t he be paid like it? Granted, the A-Rod contract was an exercise in stupidity for the Yanks, but the annual salary was probably about right (certainly not the years). I think a reasonable contract for Pujols is 7yr/$30M. It gives him what he deserves – makes him the highest paid player annually, and probably only saddles Stl for 2 yrs below value. Should be interesting.

  10. Don M

    February 16, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Pujols wants the BIGGEST CONTRACT IN BASEBALL HISTORY ….. and the Cardinals SHOULDN’T give him 10 years … and the $30 M per season salary is what it is … if anyone is worth that much, he is … but I wouldn’t go above 6-7 years at $30 per season..

    as long as the average of his contract beats A-Rod’s $27.5 M or whatever, he should be happy ….

    Pujols is a big bodied guy with injury history.. Cardinals should be careful not to make a mistake

  11. psubeerman21

    February 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    You have about 40 million coming off the books between Lidge, Ibanez, and Oswalt for next year. If they keep thier payroll around 160 million, I don’t think signing cole to a long-term deal will be an issue. At least I hope so…

  12. Manny

    February 16, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Given his age, I would imagine he would ask for at least 5 years guaranteed.
    And yes, we will need him.
    He’ll be the ace (the No.1 starter) of the staff 2 years from now. Mark my words.

  13. Don M

    February 16, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Hamels would be wise to be YOUNGER if he was going to seek a second deal after this Buy-Out Arbitration/first 3 years of Free Agency deal ..

    This one would set him and his family up for life… if his current $20 M or so hasn’t done that already … but he at the end of a 4 year deal he would be .. 31?

    27 in 2011, 28 in 2012, 29 in 2013, 30 in 2014, 31 in 2015 …. Im sure id rather be 30 or 31 .. than 32 if I was looking to have someone sign me to another multi-million contract

    • Manny

      February 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm

      True, but in practice I think anyone not named Adrian Beltre would take the most guaranteed money. At 32 he’d be right around his prime (like Halladay last year and Lee now) and could definitely sign another multiyear, multimillion dollar deal.

    • Manny

      February 16, 2011 at 2:08 pm

      Plus, if you can get an extra year or two of Cole Hamels in his prime (buying out a 4th or even 5th year of Free Agency), you go ahead and pull the trigger.

  14. betasigmadeltashag

    February 16, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    I think the Phillies will offer him some kind of deal before he goes to arbitration. Something similar to the Lee deal just not as much Money, they can go 5 years with a vested 6th year if he hits innings marks in the 4th and 5th year at some where around 17 million on avg. Five years 83 million or so where you do it like the other posters had mentioned 15 -15- 16-17-20 million each year with a 22 million vested sixth year when he will be what 33. That 105 million over 6 years and he will still be young enough to sign up again after that. I think you will have to go over 4 years with a 5th year option.

  15. Brooks

    February 17, 2011 at 7:02 am

    Cole has to be signed.. playing with what I consider astronomical numbers – well, the money will work out. Cole is the look of the Phils in this decade. As much as Howard, Utley, Jimmy – Cole name is torched into the Phillies lore and has to be signed.

    Now, who is going to Florida and when? I am anxious for some hitting updates!

  16. derekcarstairs

    February 17, 2011 at 7:21 am

    Moves I would like to see the Phils make:
    1. Sign Hamels to a 4-year deal as Don M suggests; the length is good for both sides; the subsequent deal that Hamels signs in 2016 at age 32 will be for a fortune.
    2. If he’s healthy and willing, don’t just pick up his option; sign Oswalt to a two- or three-year deal that keeps him around until one or more of Cosart, Colvin, May and Biddle are ready; Oswalt always has been and remains a great pitcher.
    3. Cut Lidge loose; go with Madson as the closer; and fill a number of bullpen slots with our minor league prospects (De Fratus and Company); that would result in a significant cut in payroll.
    4. Sign Rollins to a four-year deal in the $45 – 50 million range.
    5. Monitor Singleton’s progress this year; if he is as good a hitter as many think, he could reach AA in 2011; if this happens, the Phils may just need somebody to hold down the LF job one more season (2012) until Singleton takes over in 2013; under these circumstances, I would not be opposed to bringing back Ibanez for one more season at a sharply reduced salary and, possibly, as part of a platoon with Francisco.
    6. Polanco’s contract is up at the end of 2012; I would step up the search for a right-handed power hitting 3B prospect as the long-term solution; we may not find this guy by 2013 and have to settle for another veteran for a couple more years.
    7. Go heavy on catchers in the 2011 draft in an effort to increase Valle’s competition and find Ruiz’ eventual successor.

    To offset partially some of the big salaries the Phils will be paying out, they can get much cheaper (and much younger) at the corner OF positions, 3B, C, the bullpen and the back of the rotation.

  17. Brian Sr. of CO

    February 18, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Just as Ryan Summers said above, RAJ has actually proven he is willing to spend money (if said player is worth it). He spent money on Halladay, Lee, Howard (albeit possibly a little prematurely). This is not the same old Phillies who were allergic to spending money in years and decades past. We have an extremely passionate and PHaithful PHanbase, and we keep spending buttloads of money to not only see the Phillies play at CBP, but also to sport the colors, with merchandise. While in years past I have been hesitant to buy jersey’s and shirts because I didnt think the Phillies would actually pay to keep or get high quality players for extended periods of time, besides 1 or two. Those years appear to be gone. I can honestly say I have spent a butt load more on this team with 3 jersey’s, somewhere around 8 T-Shirts, and some hats in the last 3 years. I honestly dont mind as long as my money that I am spending is then going to put a quality/contending if not WFC teams on the field. I hope they dont go back to the old way of doing business. I would rather spend money on tickets and merchandise and see a very good to great team on the field consistantly rather than crap.

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