Cole World, Indeed: Hamels Signs Monster Extension


Late last night, Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports tweeted that the Phillies and Cole Hamels were close to agreeing on a contract extension north of $137.5M over the next 6 years. Sometime between when I went to bed at 1:30 AM and when I woke up at 9:30 this morning, the final terms of the deal were announced. Cole Hamels was staying in Philadelphia for the next 6 seasons for a cool $144M, with a vesting option for a 7th year. What does it mean for the Phillies?

1) They are not trading Cole Hamels. Pretty self-explanatory, but the rumors of sending him to the Texas Rangers for a package headlined by stud 3B prospect Mike Olt or to the Los Angeles Angels for a package led by young CF Peter Bourjos are dead. Hamels will be wearing the red pinstripes for the foreseeable future.

2) The Phillies don’t have a lot of payroll flexibility going forward. Next season, they have $25M owed to Cliff Lee, $20M  to Roy Halladay, $20M to Ryan Howard, $15M to Chase Utley, $13M to Jonathan Papelbon, $11M to Jimmy Rollins, and $5M to Carlos Ruiz (assuming they pick up his option). Adding that to the $24M of average annual value that Hamels’ contract has, and the Phillies have $133M committed to 8 players next season. With the luxury tax set at $178M, the Phillies will need to fill the remaining 17 spots on their roster with just $45M. It’s going to require some hard work and creativity from Ruben Amaro Jr. and the front office.

3) It increases the likelihood that Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence are traded. Victorino is a free agent after the season, and the Phillies almost surely do not have the funds to re-sign him. Pence, meanwhile, is under team control for next season, but figures to get a raise to roughly $13M in arbitration next offseaason, which is a figure the Phillies simply don’t seem able to afford.

4) We could see Cliff Lee traded as well. Lee can block trades to 21 of the 30 teams in the MLB, but the Texas Rangers are not one of them. The Rangers loved having Lee for the 2010 stretch run, when he led them to the World Series, and were heartbroken to see him leave in free agency afterwards. The Phillies would like to keep Halladay, Lee, and Hamels together for the future, but if the Rangers offered the Phillies an attractive package headlined by 3B Mike Olt, P Martin Perez, and OF Leonys Martin, the Phillies would have to consider it strongly. However, with concerns about Halladay’s arm and future career looming after his struggles this season, I’d be surprised if Lee wasn’t kept on the team.

5) Joe Blanton and Placido Polanco will likely be traded as well. There’s always a market for an innings-eater like Blanton, despite his struggles this season, and the Yankees are in dire need of a 3B after Alex Rodriguez landed on the DL last night. The return won’t be very high for either of them, but they’re both going to walk after the season and it would be wise to extract some sort of value from them.

My overall opinion? I’m okay with it for now, although it depends on the packages the Phillies get back in trades for Pence and/or Victorino. Hamels is a great left-handed pitcher in the prime of the career, and the Phillies paid him like it. However, that signing came at a cost: the Phillies are locked into a core of Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Howard, Rollins, and Papelbon for the future (Utley and Ruiz are free agents after the 2013 season), and they don’t have much room under the luxury tax to improve the roster with big name free agents. Trading Hamels would have been a unique opportunity to replenish the farm system (and, in a couple years, the team itself) with young, cheap, elite talent. Trading Victorino and Pence will aim to accomplish the same thing, although the haul will be nowhere near what it would have been for Hamels. It’s a smart move to lock up a lefty ace in his prime, but doing so comes at great costs to the Phillies now and in the future, and both monetarily and opportunity-wise.