After a full news cycle filled with reports, the Cubs made the Cole Hamels trade official Friday morning.
The return for the veteran starting pitcher is Eddie Butler and prospect Rollie Lacy.
In Hamels, the Cubs are getting a former NLCS and World Series MVP (2008) and four-time All-Star who has finished in the Top 10 in NL Cy Young voting four times. Of course, he's now 34 (will turn 35 in December) and in the midst of the worst season of his career (5-9, 4.72 ERA, 1.37 WHIP).
But the Cubs can take solace in the fact that Hamels is moving from facing the designated hitter in the American League to an NL team with an elite defense behind him and a park that often plays like a pitcher's haven with the wind blowing in.
Hamels is also 1-7 with a 6.41 ERA and 1.51 WHIP at home this season while pitching in a hitter's paradise in Arlington. On the road, his numbers are much better — 4-2, 2.93 ERA, 1.23 WHIP.
Hamels also has an 11.12 ERA in July, surrendering 21 runs in 17 innings pitched. Before that, he was actually having a really nice season — 3.61 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 97 strikeouts in 97.1 innings. You can't just throw out a month's worth of action on a player's stat line, but for a guy with a 3.43 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 152 wins on his career resume, the track record indicates he should be able to right the ship at some point.
Hamels is making $23.5 million this season and has a $6 million buyout (or $20 million team option) for 2019, but the Cubs will reportedly only have to pay $5 million of Hamels' remaining contract. That should help them stay under the luxury tax in 2018, which was a goal of the front office this season ahead of the stud-filled free agent pool coming this winter that includes Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
Rangers pick up all but $5 million of the remaining $14 million guaranteed #Hamels on his contract (including $6 million buyout on $20 million club option next year).#Cubs send Eddie Butler, Class A pitcher Rollie Lacy and a PTBNL to Rangers in deal.— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) July 27, 2018
Source: In final terms of Cole Hamels deal with Texas, #Cubs will be responsible for $5 million of his remaining salary obligations.— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) July 27, 2018
It is not yet known exactly how Cole Hamels will fit in on the Cubs pitching staff, but with Tyler Chatwood's continued control issues and Yu Darvish's health a major question mark, Hamels gives the Cubs another option in the rotation with plenty of experience in a pennant chase and the postseason.
The Cubs could opt for a six-man rotation — something they've been wanting to do for a while. That would help ease the burden on a rotation that features two 34-year-olds (Hamels and Jon Lester), a pitcher currently on track to set a new career high in innings (Mike Montgomery), a guy who experienced shoulder fatigue right before the All-Star Break (Jose Quintana) and, of course, Chatwood and his mechanical issues that have seen him walk 85 batters in only 94 innings.
With Hamels in tow, the Cubs could also opt to move Chatwood into the bullpen in an attempt to get his mechanics smoothed out. At the moment, Montgomery (3.02 ERA, 1.18 WHIP as a starting pitcher) looks to have a rotation spot locked down as long as he can stay fresh down the stretch.
Hamels has pitched some big games against Joe Maddon's teams, including the 2008 World Series against Maddon's Tampa Bay Rays in which the southpaw allowed only 4 runs in 13 innings across 2 starts.
"He's been pretty good," Maddon said Thursday of Hamels. "I've not liked him for a long time. He's pitched some really big games against teams I've been involved with and has done really well. He's a great competitor. Got good stuff, but he competes and he knows what he's doing out there. So I have to rank him as a pretty competent left-handed pitcher."
Butler was out of minor-league options, so his departure clears room on the roster for Hamels immediately. Butler — acquired in a trade with the Rockies before the start of the 2017 season — was 5-4 with a 3.98 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in 72.1 innings in his Cubs career, spanning 11 starts and 10 relief appearances.
The Cubs just activated Butler from the disabled list earlier this week after he had missed three months with a groin injury.
Lacy, 23, was an 11th-round draft pick last summer and is 5-2 with a 2.45 ERA and 1.10 WHIP this season while splitting time between the Cubs' Class-A South Bend and Advanced Class-A Myrtle Beach affiliates.
Lacy was not ranked on MLB.com's Top 30 Cubs prospect list updated last month after the 2018 MLB Draft.