Cole Hamels was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies, developed into a dominant starter with the Phillies, won a World Series (and a Series MVP) with the Phillies and, reason dictates, will sign a new contract with the Phillies.
But for now, Hamels’ future beyond the 2012 season is undetermined.
What if the unlikely were to happen and Hamels decided to test the waters of free agency? The Boston Red Sox would immediately be part of the conversation for where the 28-year-old lefty would sign. After all, they are almost always in the mix for landing the biggest free agents on the market.
Should this scenario play out, landing Hamels would take on a particular significance for the Red Sox. The following is five reasons why Boston should make a big offer to Hamels if he becomes available.
Hamels’ body of work speaks for itself. Utilizing a plus fastball, a dominant chanegup and an effective curveball and cut fastball, Hamels has given the Phillies five straight seasons of 10-plus wins and 180-plus innings pitched—reaching 200-plus IP in three of those five seasons—to go along with MVP honors for both the National League Championship Series and World Series in 2008.
For his career, Hamels has held batters to a .237 average against. His WHIP for a season has never exceeded 1.29; his career-best 0.99 WHIP in 2011 was third best in the majors behind Cy Young winners Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw.
It’s a testament to Hamels’ mental fortitude that he’s put up these numbers for a team with some of the most fickle and passionate fans in the game. He would have no issues adjusting to the Boston pressure cooker if the Red Sox signed him because he’s been pitching in a highly scrutinized environment for his whole career.
The Red Sox already boast three power arms at the top of their rotation in Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz. Adding Hamels wouldn’t just give Boston a fourth flamethrower, it would also give them a second dominant lefty starter.
Having Hamels and Lester is more than just a matter of handcuffing opposing offenses. It’s also a matter of keeping up with the competition in the American League East. The Tampa Bay Rays already feature two lefty strikeout artists (David Price and Matt Moore) in their rotation, and the Yankees could have a pair of their own should prospect Manny Banuelos progress and join CC Sabathia in the big leagues soon.
Playing in the American League East is a daily dogfight. Staying competitive is contingent on having the same resources as your competition, lest you be left behind and out of the postseason.
How prevalent has talk been of the Bronx Bombers going after Hamels? Type “Cole Hamels” into Google and “Yankees” is one of the first suggested suffixes that pop up.
For Red Sox fans, the thought of the Yankees having CC Sabathia and Cole Hamels at the top of the rotation is as chilling as the prospect of a Lester-Hamels combo is enticing. Imagine having to face CC and Cole a combined six to 10 times in the regular season and up to five times in a potential seven-game playoff series.
Of course, that feeling of dread would be reversed if the Red Sox got to Hamels before the Yankees did.
John Lackey’s five-year, $82.5 million contract has been a disaster from the start. His lackluster first season in 2010, during which he went 14–11 with a 4.40 ERA, is looking positively rosy compared to the 6.41 ERA and 1.62 WHIP he posted last season. Ask most Red Sox fans and they’re positively giddy about the fact that Lackey is missing the 2012 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
It’s not just the numbers that illustrate how bad Lackey’s tenure in Boston has been. He has been the epitome of a surly malcontent. The sight of Lackey glaring at his fielders when they couldn’t get to a ball in play was all too common last season (it wasn’t their fault that he was incapable of not grooving pitches right down the middle). And let’s not even get started on Beergate.
If the Sox added Hamels, Lackey would be pushed further down in the rotation. Combine that with the (hopeful) emergence of Daniel Bard as a capable major league starter and Lackey would be pushed completely out.
Yes, Lackey would immediately become baseball’s most well-paid benchwarmer. But at this point, what Boston fan wouldn’t pay Lackey not to pitch?
Nothing would be better payback for the Phillies’ poaching of Jonathan Papelbon than luring Philly’s star homegrown pitcher to Fenway.
This isn’t to say that there’s an inherent front office rivalry between the two clubs. There’s only so much enmity that can exist between teams in separate leagues and separate cities. But the fact remains that, this past offseason, the Phillies stole away with the greatest closer in Red Sox history.
Consider it karma if the Red Sox return the favor and land Hamels after the 2012 season.