As romantic as a Phillies reunion with Cole Hamels sounded, it just wasn’t going to work.
Hamels, according to multiple reports, is headed to the Los Angeles Dodgers on a deal that will pay him $1 million plus $200,000 for every start he makes.
The Phillies could have afforded him. They are safely under the $210 million luxury-tax threshold, and that wasn’t going to be an impediment anyway as president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski had the OK to go over the tax for the right opportunity – someone like, let’s just say, Craig Kimbrel.
The Phillies could not offer Hamels two things:
A championship-ready team.
And a guaranteed spot in the rotation when he’s ready to pitch.
Dombrowski alluded to the latter 10 days ago.
“We saw him (in his showcase),” Dombrowski said. “We liked him. He threw the ball well. I think what we have to factor in is, what can we do now knowing that Cole, as much as we like him, might not be ready for 30 to 40 days? Because if you sign him, you're basically telling him you're giving him a spot in the rotation. I don't know right now if we're in the spot where I can 100 percent say that. In five days, six days, will I be able to say that? Perhaps."
Five or six days passed and the Phillies acquired one starting pitcher (Kyle Gibson) and gained another (Ranger Suarez) on an in-house move.
There is still some uncertainty in the rotation as Zach Eflin remains on the injured list with right knee tendinitis. But Dombrowski and others have said they expect Eflin back this month.
When Eflin returns, the Phillies will have a full rotation -- Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Gibson, Suarez and Eflin.
Sure, there’s always uncertainty when dealing with an injury, and the depth Hamels would have provided would have been nice, but at this stage of his career, the 37-year-old lefty wants to know he’ll be getting the ball regularly.
And he also wants to win. He wants another ring to go with the one he won in Philadelphia in 2008. Yes, the 2021 Phillies are in a playoff chase, but it’s mostly by default because the National League East is so weak. The Dodgers have a much better chance of satisfying Hamels’ desire to win in October. They won the World Series last year and are built to do it again this year.
For a team so loaded and so expensive – the payroll, after trade-deadline acquisitions last week, is up to around $285 million – the Dodgers have had an unexpected deficit in starting pitching. Dustin May, Clayton Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin are all on the injured list and Trevor Bauer is out indefinitely as MLB and law enforcement investigates allegations of sexual assault.
The Dodgers have been proactive in filling these holes. They traded for three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer last week (they got Trea Turner in the deal, too) and now have Hamels in the pipeline.
The Dodgers come to Philadelphia for a three-game series on Tuesday. Hamels won’t be ready to pitch by then, but the Phillies will see a couple of elite arms right out of the chute. Cy Young candidate Walker Buehler lines up to pitch the first game of the series and Scherzer the second.
Scherzer has already beaten the Phillies three times this season and is 14-4 with a 2.55 ERA in 24 career starts against them.
Hamels, limited to just 3 1/3 innings with the Atlanta Braves because of a shoulder issue last season, should be ready to pitch later this month, in plenty of time for the September stretch drive. In addition to trying to help the Dodgers win ballgames, he’ll be showcasing himself for a contract next season.
Maybe a reunion with the Phillies will work out then.