Although Cole Hamels won’t be hitting the free-agent market this offseason, having his $20 million option picked up by the Chicago Cubs on Friday, that doesn’t mean the Philadelphia Phillies won’t be keeping an eye on his whereabouts.
In fact, as NBC Sports Philadelphia‘s Jim Salisbury explained to Joe DeCamara and Jon Ritchie on SportsRadio 94 WIP, Phillies ownership might push for Hamels to end his career in red pinstripes. Salisbury also opined that the Phillies may have pursued Hamels had he became a free-agent:
I know at the ownership level there has been a desire to maybe have a reunion with Cole Hamels someday. Have him maybe walk off, finish his career and walk off for the last time, when he finally does, and do that in Phialdelphia.
I’m not sure at the front-office level if that’s a big desire, but he was so good in the final two months of the season, couple that with the Phillies need for pitching, I do think the front-office would’ve had some interest in him had he hit the market.
Hamels was a mainstay in the Phillies rotation from 2006 to July of 2015, winning both an NLCS MVP and World Series MVP, as well as finishing in the top 10 in the National League Cy Young Award voting on four separate occasions. After throwing a no-hitter against the Cubs on July 25, 2015, Hamels was traded by the Phillies to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff, Matt Harison and Alec Asher. Hamels went 38-21 in Texas, although that came with a less-than-glamorous 3.90 ERA.
Hamels struggled at the start of the 2018 season, heading into the All-Star Break with a 4.72 ERA and a 5-9 record. The Rangers, in the middle of a down year, traded Hamels to the Chicago Cubs in July.
After landing with the Cubs, Hamels turned in a fantastic rebound, going 4-3 with a 2.36 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 12 starts for Chicago. In July of 2012, Hamels signed a six-year/$144 million extension with the Phillies, which also included a $20 million option for 2019. That option was the one the Cubs exercised late last week, meaning the total value of Hamels deal will be $164 million over seven seasons.
It’s not surprising the Phillies would have interest in bringing back Hamels. Hamels, affectionately referred to as “Hollywood,” was a fan-favorite during his 10-year stay in Philadelphia, where he was a three-time All-Star. Hamels posted a record of 114-90 with a 3.30 ERA while with the Phillies. There was speculation that the Phillies would look into possibly trading for Hamels this past summer before he was shipped to Chicago. Hamels himself said that it would’ve been a “blessing” to have been traded back to the Phillies. The Phillies, however, never appeared to make a serious push for a reunion.
Of course, this situation presents an interesting look into the Phillies organization and the decision-making that is at play. This nugget shows that managing partner John Middleton and the Phillies ownership group obviously have the utmost respect for Hamels, and would love to see him contribute for the next great Phillies team, if only for a short time.
It also shows that while the front-office, which includes general manager Matt Klentak and president Andy MacPhail, may not be keen on having nostalgia impact their vision, they would’ve had an interest in signing Hamels if his option hadn’t been picked up due to a need. Hamels would’ve been one of the top starters on the market, along with Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Patrick Corbin.
It also raises the question of whether a possible disagreement arose between the front office and ownership over the summer when Hamels could have been acquired for pennies on the dollar. It’s important to remember that during that time, starting pitching had been a strength of the Phillies, with the trio of Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez having helped Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta pitch the Phillies into first place in the National League East. The Phillies ultimately looked more towards acquiring hitting through trades, missing out on Manny Machado, but acquiring Asdrubal Cabrera and Wilson Ramos, as well as Justin Bour and Jose Bautista through August waiver trades. The only pitcher Philadelphia traded for in July ended up being reliever Aaron Loup. Veteran reliever Luis Avilan was added in August.
Improved starting pitching going into next season is a must because as previously mentioned, many of the Phillies current starters struggled down the stretch (three of the five starting pitchers finished the year with an ERA above four). It’s not clear whether that improvement will be internally or externally, however. If the Phillies do want a reunion with a former player, J.A. Happ, who had a 3.65 ERA in 2018, will also be a free agent. The Phillies did show interest in Happ prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
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