Chicago Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel provided the team with a desperately needed lift on Thursday afternoon, getting the win in a 3-2 Cubs victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. While it is only one start, Hammel did pull off a very convincing Scott Feldman impression in the process.
If you recall, Feldman was signed last season by the Cubs, had a pretty decent first half and was subsequently flipped to the Baltimore Orioles in early July in a trade that yielded both Pedro Strop and Jake Arrieta. As a key component of the rebuilding process, Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein has used this tactic with much success, and the Hammel signing in late January was clearly another low-risk maneuver designed with these same intentions in mind.
There are numerous parallels between Hammel and Feldman. Both were signed to similar deals, each being one-year contracts worth in the neighborhood of $6 million. Both pitched in the American League immediately prior to signing with the Cubs, although Hammel had pitched previously in the National League for the Colorado Rockies.
In the case of Feldman, the Cubs got arguably the best production of his career and as a result received a nice return on their minimal investment. There will always be a team or two willing to overpay at the trade deadline, and Epstein and the Cubs are clearly hoping to reproduce such a trade with Hammel.
The 31-year-old Hammel appears to be completely healthy at the moment and could potentially contribute to the Cubs’ rebuild by being dealt for meaningful prospects sometime this summer. Hammel certainly got the job done on Thursday afternoon in Pittsburgh, allowing only one run on two hits while fanning five Pirates in 6.2 innings of work. A few more performances like this and the Cubs could have a marketable asset come July, while even winning some baseball games in the interim.