The Philadelphia Phillies have a major decision to make regarding Cole Hamels and his impending free agency status. Reports surfaced recently that Hamels wants a seven year deal, one that would keep him in Philadelphia through the 2018 season.
Hamels has been nothing but tremendous for the Phillies since he debuted in 2006. He is still just 28 years old, he has no significant injury history, and he has a World Series MVP award to go along with his championship ring. Hamels is a left-hander, he strikes out a high percentage of batters while keeping his walks down, and he’s one of the top 10 pitchers in the game.
A seven year deal is very reasonable for Hamels. The Phillies gave Cliff Lee a five-year, $120 million deal when he was 32 years old, and he will be making $25 million in his age-35, 36, and 37 seasons with a $27.5 million vesting option for the season in which he will turn 38 years old.
Whether or not you think Hamels is as good as Lee (it’s very close), Hamels is more consistent, he is significantly younger, and he has done more for the Phillies than Lee has. Lee became a lifelong Philly friend when he rejected the New York Yankees’ mammoth deal to him, but Hamels has done more than that – he has carried the team on his back during the ’08 NLCS and World Series, winning the Most Valuable Player awards in both series.
Hamels is currently in a one-year, $15 million deal. It’s reasonable to expect him to get well in the nine figures and maybe even upwards of $150 million. In fact, Hamels could get the richest contract ever for a major league pitcher, currently held by CC Sabathia (seven years, $161 million).
That comes out to $23 million per season, and with the going rate for inflation, that may be about what the Phillies will have to pay to keep Hamels. The Phillies have struggled historically to groom pitchers and it would be a real shame to see them finally get a real keeper and then lose him in free agency. GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. had to know when he signed Lee that Hamels would need just as much money over probably a longer deal.
A seven year deal really isn’t that unrealistic for Hamels. The Yankees will probably be waiting with their checkbooks open to offer him up to $200 million. The Phillies will probably lose Shane Victorino in free agency and this is a team that has to keep its top young pitcher in Hamels, and they need to pay him before the season ends.