Cole Hamels has made just one major league appearance since the end of the 2019 season, but the four-time All-Star continues to look for a return to the mound. Jon Heyman of the New York Post reports that the free agent southpaw is currently “feeling good” and targeting next spring for another comeback attempt.
The past few seasons have been trying for Hamels, who turns 39 years old in December. He tossed 141 2/3 innings of 3.81 ERA ball with the Cubs in 2019, earning an $18MM deal from the Braves in the process. That didn’t pan out, as Hamels was shut down during the July ramp-up for the shortened season due to a triceps issue. He returned in September, made one 3 1/3 inning start, then landed back on the IL with a shoulder injury that ended his year.
Hamels lingered on the free agent market through the first half of last season as he rehabbed from the shoulder issue. He resurfaced in mid-July with a showcase that led to a $1MM contract with the Dodgers a couple weeks later. Within two weeks, he’d been shut back down after experiencing renewed shoulder discomfort during a simulated game. Hamels didn’t make an official appearance as a member of the L.A. organization, and he hit free agency again at the end of the year.
Last November, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reported that Hamels underwent surgery and was targeting a late-2022 return. That’s apparently no longer in the cards, as Heyman writes that the 15-year MLB veteran “has decided to take his time with his comeback plans.” That’d mark two straight seasons without any game action — and less than four innings in the past three years — but it seems Hamels remains determined to give things a go once he’s had enough time to build back from the shoulder procedure.
The long layoff certainly means Hamels will need to conduct another showcase and be amenable to minor league contracts to return to affiliated ball. Nevertheless, there’ll be no cost for organizations to check in on his form at some point next offseason. Hamels is one of the most accomplished pitchers of his generation, owner of a 3.43 ERA in just shy of 2700 big league innings. He has 11 sub-4.00 ERA seasons to his name and had been a paragon of durability during his prime. Hamels eclipsed 180 innings in every year between 2007-16 and worked 130+ frames for each of the first 14 seasons of his career.