It's safe to say Cubs fans can expect to see Cole Hamels in the "Cubbie blue" pinstripes again in 2019.
Hamels has a $20 million team option for next year and to this point, there's been absolutely no gamesmanship from either side with both the veteran southpaw and the Cubs front office openly admitting they'd like things to continue next year.
From the second Hamels got to the North Side of Chicago, he's been straightforward about how he's always wanted to play for the Cubs, dating back even before he was linked to the Cubs at the 2015 trade deadline before he was ultimately dealt to the Texas Rangers.
When the Cubs picked up Hamels this season, the 34-year-old was everything the team was hoping for and more, going 4-3 with a 2.36 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and racking up 2.5 WAR in only 12 starts.
Even when he wasn't pitching, Hamels was a leader inside the clubhouse, helping lend advice to pitchers like Mike Montgomery while also serving as a respected veteran voice as a former World Series MVP who had pitched in seven different Octobers prior to 2018.
Oh yeah, and then there was that bold statement about the Cubs-Brewers "rivalry" that endeared Hamels to North Side fans and let the entire baseball world know he was not interested in simply being a three-month rental for the Cubs.
"The Cubs have always been one of the top teams I've always wanted to be a player for," Hamels said after the Cubs were eliminated from the playoffs last week. "And obviously it didn't happen in '15. Very fortunate to go to Texas, but the Chicago Cubs were always a team I would've loved an opportunity to play for in front of this crowd and this organization and to see these types of players.
"They have a tremendous clubhouse presence, tremendous talents and it was great to be able to toe the rubber and have these guys behind me."
When Theo Epstein addressed the media about 16 hours or so after the Cubs' season ended, he didn't hesitate for even a split-second when asked if the front office hoped Hamels could return in 2019.
"Yeah, absolutely," Epstein said emphatically. "I mean, Cole was such a breath of fresh air for us. He made an unbelievable impression. For a guy that's only been here a couple months, he's as universally respected in that room as anyone I've ever seen.
"He's a pro's pro and contributed tremendously on the field and off the field and with a great, engaged, accountable, positive presence in that clubhouse who really cares about his teammates and help make them better by example and by discussion, too. He's absolutely someone we'd love to have part of the mix going forward."
The Cubs already have a bunch of starting pitchers locked under contract for 2019, but that shouldn't - and won't - dissuade Epstein's front office from paying Hamels that $20 million as rotation depth and a clubhouse presence. We should get a final determination on Hamels' option a few days after the World Series ends this fall.
The old adage in baseball is there really is no such thing as a bad one-year deal and with the question marks surrounding Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood, Hamels would give the Cubs a reliable fourth starter behind Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana. The Cubs also have Montgomery as depth and they've already publicly stated they plan to stretch Drew Smyly out as a starter in 2019 after he did not pitch at all in 2018 while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Many questioned how much Hamels had left in the tank after he posted a 4.42 ERA in 262.1 innings with the Rangers from 2017-18, but he silenced all doubters as he was rejuvenated joining a pennant race and pitching in front of the Cubs' young, talented core.
Hamels has seen so much in his 13 years in the big leagues and truly believes the Cubs' stunning early exit from this October can be a great learning experience for the team moving into next year and beyond.
And he really wants front-row seats for that in 2019.
"This was a fun experience to be a part of and hopefully this will be something I'll be able to be a part of next year," Hamels said. "...This is the right type of environment [for winning.] What Theo and the ownership have done and the players they have, they really look at that. They have the type of players that are capable of [getting back to the postseason year after year].
"Obviously, everybody getting healthy, that definitely turns the tide. So I think they've got quite a few more years to really put a dent in the National League and bring home a couple more World Series."