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San Francisco Giants Extend Pitcher Matt Cain: What Does This Mean For Cole Hamels?

The San Francisco Giants have just agreed to terms on a five-year, $112.5 million extension with pitcher Matt Cain, who was slated to hit the free agency market this coming offseason. That’s extremely good news for other pitchers that will become free agents in the upcoming years, namely Tim Lincecum, Felix Hernandez, and especially Cole Hamels.

Hamels is one year older than Cain, but he’s got several key things going for him: He’s a left-handed pitcher, he’s got about 150 fewer innings on his arm, and he actually has substantially better career numbers. The career win-loss records (74-54 for Hamels and 69-73 for Cain) don’t tell the whole story, since Cain certainly isn’t getting much run support in San Francisco.

But Hamels has a 3.74 strikeout to walk ratio compared to just 2.29 for Cain, Hamels has an NLCS and World Series MVP award, he has a higher career adjusted ERA (126 to 125), and he has a lower WHIP (1.141 to 1.196).

The Philadelphia Phillies have already committed hundreds of millions of dollars to a handful of players – $125 million to Ryan Howard over the next five seasons, $120 million to Cliff Lee, $50 million to Jonathan Papelbon, and they will have key financial decisions to make about Shane Victorino (free agent after 2012) and Hunter Pence (free agent after 2013), as well as Hamels.

CC Sabathia got seven years, $161 million from the New York Yankees. It might be unreasonable to expect that Hamels can get the same kind of a deal as Sabathia, but Hamels has already said he won’t be taking a hometown discount. Johan Santana got six years, $137.5 million from the New York Mets. Lee got $120 million over five years, and Hamels is younger and more consistent.

Hamels could get one of the largest contracts in baseball history. If the Phillies don’t extend him before the end of the season, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Yankees will be waiting with their wallet open, especially after losing out on Lee the second time. The Yankees have struggled in recent years to develop young pitching, and buying Hamels as well as the earlier season trade for Michael Pineda and the development of Ivan Nova would stock them full of young arms.

Phillies fans better hope GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. can work something out for Hamels soon because if he hits free agency, there’s no telling how high the bidding will go.