By SHAWN MCFARLAND
A lot has been made of Cole Hamels and his current contract situation with the Philadelphia Phillies.Hamels' current deal will end following the 2012 baseball season and will ultimately set him free onto the open market. While the contract talks have seemed to subside with the grind of the early season, the thought that Hamels could potentially leave Philadelphia is still in the front of everyone's minds.
Yes, the only 'ace' to bring the city its first baseball championship since 1980 four years ago, could be wearing another uniform come next spring. Just the thought alone makes every Phillies fan cringe. However, trying to be as optimistic as I can, here are some reasons why I feel Hamels should stay in the red, white and blue.
First off, we have to realize that there is no loyalty in sports anymore. So while I would like to think that because the Phils drafted him, groomed him, and had him become a NLCS and World Series MVP under their watch would have an impact on his decision – I'm not going to count on it.
As always, the main sticking point seems to be the money. As of the end of March there were reports floating around that Hamels was seeking a six-year, $137M deal. The Phils were only looking to go four years since Hamels would be 34 by the end of his proposed deal. Still, I don't think that should matter.
For the past few years the Phillies have been adamant about not going over into the luxury tax. Nevertheless, they still went out and signed Cliff Lee before last year when all the while they were saying it wouldn't be economically possible. I assume they signed Lee with the intent of winning now. Well if they are so intent on winning now, and only have a window of two-to-four years with this current group, then why not sacrifice some tax dollars to keep one of the best pitchers in the league. I am sure they will make their money back with the way Citizen's Bank has been filling up.
If the Phils do sign Hamels to his $25M-a-year contract then they will almost assuredly have to say goodbye to Shane Victorino. Victorino ($9.5M) is also a free agent at the end of this year, along with Joe Blanton ($8.5M) and Jim Thome ($1.5M). Hunter Pence, who is currently making $10.4M, will be eligible for arbitration. There are a bunch of other players on the team that are making under $1M who will be arbitration eligible, but the only one likely to see a substantial raise is Vance Worley. But if the aforementioned three walk and free up $19.25M, and perhaps Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard restructure their $20M contracts for the good of the team, the money will be there to get a deal done. It's a lot to ask, but it is possible.
Now I am sure the newly-owned Los Angeles Dodgers can and will offer more money than the Phillies. It doesn't help that the San Francisco Giants just gave Matt Cain $112M for five years. And to make matters worse, there were reports in mid-April that suggested Hamels' next contract could fetch between $150-175M on the open market. The Phils definitely can't do that, but they could give him close to what he wants ($25M-year) for the next three years. Which leads me to my next point…
The reverse of only being concerned about the money is wanting to win now. If Hamels truly wants to win now, and assuming the Phillies are healthy for the next few years, there is no other place outside of Arlington, Texas that offers him a better chance of winning another World Series title.
While Texas' lineup may be the best in baseball, the Rangers don't possess the starting staff or the closer that the Phillies do. And everyone knows pitching usually wins in the playoffs. If Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Howard and Pence can stay healthy for the majority of the time in the next three years, the Phils' lineup will still be able to compete with the best in baseball. Throw in Halladay, Lee, Worley and closer Jonathan Papelbon and this group of players is enough to have the Phillies contending for the next three years.
That's why if I were Hamels' agent, I would suggest signing a three-year deal with Philadelphia. Not only will he get to contend for a World Series title every single year (something the LA Dodgers can't say for sure as of right now), but he will still be young enough at the end of the run to get another big deal. Hamels will be 31 in three years, and if he wanted to, he could then leave for LA and link up with Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw while they are still in their prime. It's not out of the realm of possibility for a 31-year-old left-hander to still get a $100M deal. Just look at Cliff Lee.
Will any of these things play a factor or be on Hamels' mind once the 2012 season ends? Who knows. But they are at least a few ideas he should consider before signing on the dotted line with any team for that matter.