The bidding war for the services of LHP Cole Hamels is set to begin, and it isn't going to be pretty.
Starting price? Five years, $112.5 Million.
Not the news you were hoping for if you're Ruben Amaro Jr., GM of the Philadelphia Phillies who has been working on a deal to extend Hamels for the whole offseason.
The six-year veteran is due to be a free-agent this upcoming winter, and the price to keep him in town has been steadily rising for years now. The Matt Cain signing, however, has been the biggest blow to the Phillies' efforts.
With Cain out of the picture, Cole Hamels is now unquestionably the biggest free-agent prize due to be available this coming offseason. And the 28 year old is showing every sign he's ready to cash in.
So, what's this mean for the Phillies? Don't expect a hometown discount. Earlier reports said that the Phillies were hoping to lock up Hamels on a Jered Weaver type extension for four years at around $20 million a year.
Those hopes were just tossed out the window. The stats between Hamels and Cain are close, but Cole has the edge in almost every category. And after watching his home team splurge on Cliff Lee's five year, $120 million contract, a Weaver-esque deal was never that likely in the first place.
What this all adds up to is that the Phillies should consider the Matt Cain contract a starting point for Hamels, not a parallel. In addition to being a better overall pitcher, Hamels also knows that practically every team in the league will be looking for his services should he make it to free agency. The Yankees, the Cubs and the newly-owned Dodgers would all love to make a run at the two-time all-star.
What would it cost to keep Hamels on the mound at Citizens Bank Park then? All things considered, I'd put six years for $140 million with an option for a seventh as a tentative template for a deal. A little more per year than Cain, with a long term commitment every pitcher loves.
Will the Phillies pay up though? The club already has an insane amount of cash tied up over the next few years, and Cole would be their third starting pitcher at over $20 million a year. Should the Phillies balk at such a deal, however, you better believe there'll be plenty of other teams this offseason willing to capitalize.