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Jason Hammel to Royals: Latest Contract Details, Comments and Reaction

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2017

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 24:  Jason Hammel #39 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning at Wrigley Field on September 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
Jon Durr/Getty Images

Veteran starting pitcher Jason Hammel will be a member of the Kansas City Royals in 2017.

Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal first reported the news Sunday, noting it's a two-year deal with a mutual option for a third season. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports added the deal is worth $16 million in guarantees.

Hammel pitched well for the Chicago Cubs after spending the last two years and parts of the 2014 season with the club, posting a 3.59 ERA and 1.14 WHIP while striking out 420 batters in 446 innings across 78 starts.

Those were the best numbers he's posted at any stop in his big league career by a considerable margin.

While he dropped off a bit last season, finishing with a 3.83 ERA in 30 starts, he was still a reliable piece of the rotation. That's why it came as somewhat of a surprise when Chicago declined his $12 million contract option following its World Series victory over the Cleveland Indians. The Cubs' choice to move on without Hammel came after he didn't earn a spot on the playoff roster.

At the time, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune passed along comments from president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, who explained why not picking up the option made sense for both sides.

"Jason will have the opportunity to enter free agency coming off an outstanding season and the ability to choose his next club," Epstein said. "Meanwhile, the organization gains some flexibility and the opportunity to use a rotation spot to develop a younger, long-term starting pitcher."

The timing did work in Hammel's favor. At 34 years old, he entered free agency at an age where he could attract significant interest after the most productive three-year stretch of his career. This offseason's market also lacked depth at starting pitcher.

Ultimately, Hammel decided the Royals represented the best fit as he looks to build off the success he enjoyed in Chicago. The question now, however, is whether he's a strong No. 2 or 3 starter or if his mediocre performance earlier in his career was more representative of his ability.

His last full season away from the Cubs came in 2013, when he accumulated a 4.97 ERA and 1.46 WHIP with the Baltimore Orioles. If his numbers are close to that level in 2017, the signing will look like a bust.

There's some risk for Kansas City associated with adding Hammel, but combined with a weak group of free-agent starters, his recent success makes him a worthwhile addition to the rotation.

                                                     

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