Leading up to baseball's winter meetings, we will take a daily look at some of the game's top free agents and how they could potentially impact the Phillies.
Today, we check in on someone Phillies fans know well, veteran lefty Cole Hamels.
It feels funny typing those words — veteran lefty — but that's just what Hamels is now. He turns 36 in December. Hard to believe for those of us who remember the squeaky-voiced teenager who showed up at Veterans Stadium for a news conference after the Phillies selected him 17th overall in the 2002 draft. Six years later, Hamels was MVP of the National League Championship Series and World Series as the Phillies won it all in 2008.
Hamels was traded to Texas as the Phillies ramped up their rebuild in the summer of 2015 and now he's a free agent who still has something to offer. One-hundred fourteen of his 163 wins have come in a Phillies uniform. Will he come full circle and win a few more for the Phillies now that the rebuild is over?
Why he fits
Hamels is no longer the top-of-the-rotation pitcher he was during his prime in Philadelphia, but the Phillies need pitching up and down their rotation and he would make a lot of sense as a stabilizer at the back half of it. He had a 3.81 ERA for the Cubs in 27 starts last season but missed a month with an oblique injury suffered in late June. Hamels was quite good before the injury, recording a 2.98 ERA in 17 starts. He struggled and pitched to a 5.79 ERA in 10 starts after returning from the IL.
With an offseason to heal, Hamels will be healthy as he joins some team this winter and he should be able to deliver 150-160 innings. He did not receive a qualifying offer from the Cubs so he would not cost a draft pick.
Once upon a time, Hamels grew up as a young pitcher in Philadelphia under the tutelage of Roy Halladay. Hamels is a serious student of the craft of pitching. It would be poetic if he returned to Philadelphia and served as a mentor to some of the Phillies' young arms, and fans would certainly welcome his return as part of a pitching staff upgrade.
Why he doesn't fit
The only way we see a reunion not being a fit is if the market for Hamels gets extremely competitive and his price becomes more than the Phillies want to commit to a 36-year-old pitcher. The Phils will need a starting pitching upgrade beyond Hamels, but he'd be a solid second wintertime addition.
The price tag
As far back as May, Hamels talked about his desire to finish his career in Philadelphia. He recently told MLB.com that he'd be open to a one-year contract. That's not exactly strategy out of the Negotiating 101 handbook and it hasn't stopped agent John Boggs from seeking a multi-year deal. Hamels made $20 million with Cubs last season. It's difficult to see him getting that much, but not difficult to see him getting something in the neighborhood of $17 million per season.
"He's no longer that middle-to-top-of-the-rotation guy, but a one-year deal should probably entice every team in the game. He really knows how to pitch. You look at the No. 4 guys in the league. If he's healthy, I'd have solid confidence in him in that role."