FRIDAY, 12:17am: The Mariners have engaged in some “dialogue” regarding Hamels, Morosi tweets, though there’s no indication at present that they’re particularly likely to end up with him.
THURSDAY, 8:37pm: It’s “increasingly possible” that the Rangers will strike a deal involving veteran starter Cole Hamels in advance of the All-Star break, according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi (via Twitter). This year’s mid-summer classic is scheduled for July 17th.
It has long been apparent that Hamels was in position to be traded. The Rangers stumbled out of the gates and never made up ground. Meanwhile, the 34-year-old southpaw has produced good results with good-enough peripherals. With just one option year left on his high-priced contract, he’s a clear trade candidate.
While this evening’s report hints at some movement, much is still unknown. It’s largely unclear just which teams have interest, though there are a limited number of “buying” organizations and most of them could stand to add a rotation piece. It remains to be seen whether any will really push to get Hamels on board well in advance of the deadline. There’s no indication that a single suitor has emerged to this point.
It is also not yet apparent how much of an obstacle Hamels’s contract situation will pose. He can block trades to twenty teams. While he indicated a willingness to facilitate a move, he also could still seek some additional inducement. Teams will surely not be enthused with the fact that Hamels is earning a hefty $22.5MM salary this season. There’s yet greater potential for complication from his $20MM club option for 2019, which comes with an unusually large $6MM buyout.
Of course, those matters wouldn’t be quite so important were it not for the fact that Hamels is no longer the pitcher he was when the Rangers originally acquired him. We examined some of these limitations a month back. For the most part, the situation remains the same: Hamels has restored most of his lost ability to get swings and misses, but he’s giving up far too many homers and has perhaps been a bit fortunate to carry a 3.61 ERA. Opponents this year own only a .266 batting average on balls in play (well below the mark Hamels has allowed in his career) despite making hard contact at a lofty 44.1% rate (by far the highest Hamels has permitted).
To be sure, Hamels still warranted a top spot in our recent list of the top fifty summer trade candidates. But that’s due in no small part to the fact that few high-end rental starters seem likely to be made available. Other pitchers — J.A. Happ and Tyson Ross, in particular — are arguably preferable given their strong numbers and cheaper contracts.
In fairness, there are some factors that point in favor of Hamels, too. He has a lengthy track record as a standout pitcher and had reeled off seven-straight 200+ inning campaigns before missing some starts last season. Hamels also has ample postseason experience, carrying a composite 3.48 ERA in 98 1/3 total playoff innings.