Why Cubs didn’t tender Cole Hamels a qualifying offer

Why Cubs didn’t tender Cole Hamels a qualifying offer

Cole Hamels is officially a free agent.

According to multiple reports, the Cubs didn’t tender Hamels a qualifying offer ahead of Monday’s deadline. Thus, he’s hitting the open market and able to sign with any team, as free agency kicked off on Monday.

Players are eligible to receive qualifying offers if they spent the entire season with one team and if they haven’t previously received it in their career. It’s one-year deal worth the mean salary of MLB’s 125 highest-paid players — i.e. $17.8 million this offseason.

If a player is tendered a qualifying offer, they have 10 days to accept or reject it. If the latter occurs, teams receive draft pick compensation if/when the player signs with a new team in free agency.

The Cubs tendered qualifying offers to Dexter Fowler (2016-17 offseason) and Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis (2017-18 offseason) in recent years. They would’ve been welcomed returns to the Cubs, but each were seeking multi-year deals and the Cubs knew the offers would be rejected. Thus, they tendered each offer so they wouldn’t lose Fowler, Arrieta and Davis for nothing.

By that logic, wouldn’t it have made sense for the Cubs to also tender Hamels a qualifying offer? Well, not exactly.

Hamels is 35 (he’ll turn 36 in December), older than any of the three aforementioned players when they received a qualifying offer from the Cubs. Age is obviously just a number, and Hamels showed in 2019 he still has something left in the tank.

However, it was also a tale of two seasons for the left-hander: pre-injury and post-injury. Before suffering a left oblique strain on June 28, Hamels had a 2.98 ERA in 17 starts. In 10 starts after he returned, he posted a 5.79 ERA, struggling with his command.

Hamels is out to prove the naysayers wrong in 2020, showing that his post-injury woes aren’t the real him and merely a result of how tough it was to get into a groove down the stretch.

“I don’t want to put that in the back of teams’ heads of how I finished,” Hamels said the day before his final start of the season. “I think I’m capable of what I was able to do in the first half - that’s who I am - and I can still get those good results for hopefully [the Cubs], if they consider that.

“But also, for other teams to know that I’m not the type of player that’s on the regression. This is what we’re gonna expect. It’s more so what I was able to do in the first half — the type of player that I am and the results that I can get out on the field.”

Teams will be interested in Hamels on the open market, and based on his comments he would be open to a Cubs reunion. His age and second half struggles may work against him in any negotiations but a one-year, $17.8 million offer would be very enticing for Hamels.

For the Cubs, it would put them back in the same place as last offseason when they picked up Hamels’ $20 million option for 2019.

Hamels’ option wasn’t the sole reason for the Cubs’ much-discussed 2019 budget constraints, but it played a part. And even though they have a number of players coming off the books this winter, things will still be tight. Kris Bryant and Javier Báez will receive raises in arbitration, and the Cubs will also be looking for upgrades at second base, center field and in the bullpen.

The Cubs could look to bring Hamels back for less than $17.8 million. He provides the team with a veteran presence in the clubhouse, and they could do a whole lot worse rotation-wise than a healthy Hamels.

But if he elects to sign elsewhere, on a deal worth more than they’re willing to offer, the Cubs will have to live with the fact they lost him for nothing.

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Cubs' Twitter trolls Brewers, Christian Yelich after Yu Darvish's stellar start

Cubs' Twitter trolls Brewers, Christian Yelich after Yu Darvish's stellar start

The Cubs' Twitter account has been saving this one for nine months.

First, let us present you with this doozy of a tweet from the Cubs after Thursday's 4-2 win over Milwaukee.

If you recall, Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich went at Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish on Twitter last November. A since-deleted tweet from Yelich's account to Darvish read "nobody needs help facing you."

A video circulated in November that showed Darvish step off the rubber while Yelich was in the batter's box during a 2019 Cubs-Brewers game. Some suggested Darvish stepped off because Yelich's eyes moved, also suggesting Yelich was looking for signs stolen via technology.

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In response to the video, Darvish explained his actions from that game, clarifying he wasn't accusing Milwaukee of stealing signs.

Here we are nearly a year later, the Cubs' Twitter playing off Yelich's tweet after Darvish dominated Milwaukee. He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, allowing a hit (a solo homer) and two walks while striking out 11.

If you're wondering, Yelich went 0-for-2 with a hit by pitch against Darvish on Thursday.


Cubs rotation weathers surprise break, shakeup to be as dominant as ever

Cubs rotation weathers surprise break, shakeup to be as dominant as ever

Hair flowing out from under his cap, Yu Darvish held his right leg up at a right angle and watched Brewers’ Omar Narvaez swing late on a high fastball.

If Darvish stuck an arm out, his body would be in the shape of a K, fitting for yet another strike out.

In the Cubs’ 4-2 win against the Brewers on Thursday, Darvish allowed just one hit and one run in seven innings. In fact, in the Cubs’ past three games no starter has given up more than a run, and all pitched at least six innings.

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“It makes my job really easy,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “It’s fun to sit back and not have to worry about too much until the sixth or seventh inning.

The Cubs rotation has been a strength all season. Entering play Thursday, the Cubs starters had the third-best ERA in Major League Baseball (2.65). But this recent string of especially dominant performances came under unusual circumstances: right after a surprise four-day break.

Starting pitchers enjoy a consistent schedule through most of the season. They generally pitch every fifth or sixth day, with a bullpen in between starts.

But the postponement of the St. Louis series, due to more positive tests in the Cardinals organization, threw off that routine for the Cubs starters. The Cubs left St. Louis last Friday without having played a game.

The Cubs coaching staff had a decision to make: skip the pitchers scheduled to start in those un-played games, or shuffle the rotation? They did a little bit of both.

Jon Lester, who was originally scheduled to start last Friday, threw his regular in-between-starts bullpen on Saturday and drew the first start of the Cleveland series.

Then, the rotation picked up at the beginning. The Cubs’ first three games back had Lester, Kyle Hendricks and then Darvish taking the mound. All had dominant outings, despite the extra days rest.

"There have been so many things going on this whole year,” Hendricks said, “I think that nothing's going to faze us now.”

Having Mills and Lester swap places also split up the two most similar pitchers in the Cubs rotation. Hendricks and Mills are both soft-throwing, crafty right-handers. With Mills pitching fifth and Hendricks first, they threw on consecutive days as the rotation turned over.

Now, left-handed Lester will pitch in between the two, giving hitters a different look.

“We talked about it a little bit,” Hendricks said after his start Wednesday. “I think it's a little overblown, the effect of it. I think the last two games that I've pitched behind (Mills) I just haven't made a lot of good pitches, I was kind of off a little bit. Today I just made better pitches. ... And honestly, seeing how he attacks guys helps.”

Even so, Lester set the bar high out of the break and then Hendricks matched his one-run six innings.

“We’re not talking about it, but we’re putting pressure on each other,” Darvish said. “That’s a good pressure for us.”

On Thursday, Darvish said he stuck to mixing in his knuckle curve ball early in counts, as he’d begun to do against Pittsburgh two weeks before. He had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning Thursday but gave up a solo home run to Justin Smoak. Darvish recorded a season-high 11 strikeouts.

“I thought he had really good command of his off-speed stuff tonight,” Ross said after the game. “… Really kept them off balance. You really didn’t see a whole lot of good swings until that homer form Smoak.”

Next, the streak will be in the hands of Tyler Chatwood and Mills. Chatwood had a dud of an outing the last time he pitched, allowing eight runs on 11 hits at Kansas City. But he averaged over nine strikeouts in each of his first two outings.  And Alec Mills has a 1.38 ERA, the second best on the team, behind Lester (1.06).

Both have been integral parts of the rotation overperforming, after the Cubs front office was up front about its starting-pitching depth concerns ahead of the season.

After Thursday’s game, the Cubs rotation has improved to a 2.55 ERA, with a 12-3 record.