The Philadelphia Phillies had to make a decision, an impossible one. Either let Cole Hamels walk or pay the price to keep the anchor for the future of their club in tow. The price was going to be steep because Hamels has a mixture of everything that you could ask for from a free agent to be on his side: age (28 years old), results and the name your own price combination of being a left-hander in his prime.
Yet the challenge for the Phillies discussed for the better part of a year was how can they afford to give Hamels what he’d demand? With Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard already pulling in over $20 million per season, could they realistically give another deal like that out as well? Well, with the trade deadline bearing down and nearly every team with a glimmer of hope checking on what it would take to get Hamels on their side, the Phillies decided that it was better keep him than ship him, and decided to let history have its place.
Early on Wednesday morning a six-year, $144 million deal with his name on it was finished. Now that may seem like a lot for a guy that has never won more than 15 games in a season and been slid down the rotation with each acquisition the club has made the last few years, and the inevitable “is he worth it” debates have some legitimacy. Is Hamels the best pitcher in the game? Absolutely not. Is he even the best pitcher on his own staff? That’s highly debatable as well. But all of those points are irrelevant, because he had the almighty combination of potential, age and current status on his side to steer his future earnings.
But of the debating on what his results-to-check deal stop here: no player in history, outside of maybe Alex Rodriguez, has had better timing and cashed in on opportunity more than Hamels. The Phillies are in an impossible position of carrying high expectations, and not being out of the race. With Halladay, Howard and Cole Hamels all back and playing together for the first time since last year, they’ve put together their best stretch of the year over the last week with the trade deadline just a week away. How could they possibly get rid of the steadiest pitcher of the year while they are clawing out of the grave?
In the midst of all of this, all Hamels had to do was keep showing up for work every day, because his stock improved itself without him even throwing a pitch. Momentum plus timing plus securing the future of the franchise did all the work for him, and he received the biggest perfect storm deal of all-time. Now he has his deal and the Phillies have the best young arm on their team locked up for the remainder of his career.
The precedent set by the deal is staggering, and how it affects the rest of the team remains to be seen. Before last year, there had never been more than one $20 million pitcher in one rotation, now there are three in Philly. When all of the hype in the collection of pitchers that team is built around is removed, it comes down to stark reality of how much it is their responsibility to see to it this team wins. Will the organization have the finances to improve an aging and injury-prone offense now around their arms? There are a lot of tough-to-impossible to move contracts on the roster now, so this roster is going to have to do it the way it is now. But this is one situation where money really wasn’t an option, because it couldn’t be.
Isn’t it great when a plan comes together? Now let’s see where that plan lands the Phillies this season, and the rest of the team around their $60 million rotation going forward.
For more on the rest of the trade deadline deals, and me running into the slightly less than Hamels, multi-thousand dollar deal I inked to go to work each day, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.