The Atlanta Braves have had a ton of success in signing veterans hoping to bounce back for one year at high rates over the past two offseasons. However, Cole Hamels is the exception to that.
The Braves inked Hamels to a one-year/$18 million deal last offseason, hoping to get the type of career revival that they’ve seen from Josh Donaldson and Marcell Ozuna. Instead, injuries limited Hamels to just 3 1/3 innings over one start for the Braves during the pandemic-shortened season.
2020 marked the second consecutive season that Hamels’ season was greatly affected by injuries, with shoulder and arm injuries essentially making him a non-factor for a Braves team that finished within a game of reaching the World Series. In 2019, an oblique injury limited Hamels to 27 starts with the Chicago Cubs, and there’s reason to believe he wasn’t healthy for many of the starts that he did make with the club.
Given that Hamels will turn 37 in December, it may just be that he’s reached the end of the line. As much as he may have been inspired by playing with Jamie Moyer early in his career, Hamels has logged nearly 2,700 regular season innings in his career. That catches up to you at a certain point.
Still, the 2008 World Series MVP is apparently drawing interest on the free-agent market. Jon Heyman of RADIO.COM Sports reports that Hamels “has received interest from several teams,” adding that the four-time All-Star would consider throwing for teams, though COVID-19 could prevent such an event from taking place.
At the outset of last offseason, Hamels expressed a desire to return to Philadelphia, where he spent the first nine-and-a-half seasons of his career. Ultimately, MLB.com‘s Todd Zolecki would report that the Phillies offered Hamels a one-year deal with about half of the total value of the Braves’ pact, so naturally a return never got especially close.
Could the two sides revisit the idea of a reunion this offseason? After Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin, the Phillies have little in the way of certainty in their starting rotation for 2021, as evidenced by the fact that they tendered a contract to Vince Velasquez. There’s hope that Spencer Howard will develop into a frontline starter, but he pitched just 24 1/3 innings in 2020 and has had arm injuries in consecutive seasons, so it’s unclear how much the Phillies will be able to push him in 2021.
So, despite more pressing needs elsewhere on the roster, the Phillies could use another back-end-of-the-rotation starter. Whether Hamels could provide that type of stability at this stage of his career remains to be seen.
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