The Phillies need a left-handed starter. The Phillies spent much of 2019 without a left-handed starter, before acquiring Drew Smyly and Jason Vargas. Smyly and Vargas are both free agents after Smyly's contract ended and the Phillies chose to buy out the option year on a deal Vargas signed with the New York Mets. Might former Phillies starter Cole Hamels be a possibility?
Hamels is interested, provided that the Phillies are.
Todd Zolecki of MLB.com caught up with Hamels, who expressed interest in returning:
"If I fit on their roster and their plans, I’d love the opportunity to come back. It’s probably more on their end, though, to reach out and see if I actually do fit in their plans. It would be difficult for me to say, ‘Hey, I want to play there, can you guys make it happen?’ But I’m always willing to play for that team and city and attempt to win a World Series. That’s where I am right now. I just want to have the opportunity to get to the postseason, just so that I can try to win.”
Hamels is a free agent for the first time in his career.
The Phillies signed Hamels to a six-year, $144 million contract in July 0f 2012. Almost three years to the day later, Hamels was traded to the Texas Rangers. Hamels was acquired by the Chicago Cubs in another July transaction in 2018. The Cubs then exercised an option in the contract to bring Hamels back for 2019. The Cubs did not extend a qualifying offer to Hamels this offseason, meaning no draft pick compensation will be attached to a contract Hamels signs.
The Phillies could sign Hamels early, giving the club some insurance if they are unable to land one of the bigger name arms, such as Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, key free agent starting pitchers, much like the Phillies landed Andrew McCutchen last offseason ahead of signing Bryce Harper. Hamels probably commands just a one-year contract and might be affordable; Hamels finished 2019 battling an oblique injury.
As Zolecki notes, the 2.2 WAR Hamels posted last season would have been second-best in their starting rotation.
While Hamels is no longer an ace or a top-of-the-rotation option, he could provide veteran leadership and credibility in the starting rotation, while offering an option from the left side.