Baby, You’re (Gonna Be) A Rich Man
The Giants and Matt Cain agreed to those terms yesterday, and I believe most everybody would agree Hamels is a better pitcher than Cain. Hamels is 74-54 with a 3.39 ERA since 2006, pitching half his games in cozy Citizens Bank Park. Cain is 67-72 with a 3.39 ERA since 2006, pitching half his games at canyon-esque AT&T Park. Hamels has more strikeouts (1,091 to 1,055), a better strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.74 to 2.32) and WHIP (1.14 to 1.21) in that span. He is at the top of most pitching categories in the National League since he made his big-league debut. Cain is up there with him, but Hamels is usually just a bit better.
So if Cain got that, Hamels gets what?
I wonder if the Phillies said today, “How about Cliff Lee money?” if Hamels takes it.
Think about it: Cain and Lee are separated by just $7.5 million. (Lee signed a five-year, $120 million deal.) You’ve got to think Hamels will take home much more than Lee if he hits the open market. So I guess Hamels would have to ask himself the same rhetorical question Lee asked his agent Darek Braunecker, during negotiations with the Yankees, Rangers and Phillies: How much money does my family really need? (Plug alert: Pg. 84 in The Rotation.)
Is $115 million enough to keep Hamels happy in Philadelphia? Is $120 million? Is $125 million? Or is Hamels going to see how far he can go?
Ruben Amaro Jr. had some interesting answers about Hamels and the future of his team in today’s Q&A. First, he said his team can afford three $20 million-a-year pitchers. But I also asked if there is a realistic scenario in which the Phillies keep Hamels, Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence. Victorino becomes a free agent after this season, and Pence becomes a free agent after 2013. Amaro said, “It’s possible, but we may have to make some tough choices. It is probable? I don’t know. I just don’t know.”
If the Phillies and Hamels can’t get close to a deal — I’m told they’re not close and there are reports the parties haven’t talked in weeks — maybe the Phillies decide to swing in the other direction and load up on offense. Of course, there is risk there and the Phillies know it. The reason they acquired Roy Halladay, Lee and Roy Oswalt in recent years is because they understand pitching rules the day. That’s why Amaro obsessed over Halladay. That’s why he got Lee twice. That’s why he traded all those prospects.
Lose Hamels and you’re losing one of the best pitchers in baseball in his prime.
Can the Phillies really afford that, knowing Hamels is just 28 and Halladay and Lee will finish the season at 35 and 34, respectively?
But then ask yourself this: If the Phillies do whatever it takes to keep Hamels, is it worth it if it means they lose Victorino or Pence or both? I hear a lot of concerns about this team’s offense. Lots. Like every day I get an e-mail, tweet or comment on the blog about how much fans are concerned about this team’s ability to score. (Deep down, I’m sure Charlie Manuel shares your concerns.) Now say the Phillies go crazy and sign Hamels for much more than $120 million. And say they can’t keep Victorino or Pence (or both). If that’s the case then you could assume they can’t get players of similar caliber at similar prices to replace them, otherwise they would have kept them in the first place.
Now where is your offense?
To keep all three I believe Amaro needs each of them to accept less money than they could get on the open market. That seems unlikely to me. (The Phillies would love Domonic Brown to have a big year this year. That would ease some of their offensive concerns.)
If you were Amaro, what would you do? Bring back Hamels regardless of the cost? Go offense?
What would your happy medium be?
Thanks to the folks who stopped by our book signing last night at the Barnes & Noble in Plymouth Meeting. Jim Salisbury and I will be at the Chester County Book Company in West Chester at 7 tonight. Hope to see you there!
Salisbury and I co-authored the book The Rotation, which is now available. Check it out here!
Here are our upcoming book signings:
- April 3: Chester County Book Company in West Chester, PA, 7 p.m.
- April 26: Barnes & Noble in Marlton, NJ, 7 p.m.
- May 10: Tredyfrrin Public Library in Stafford, PA, 7:30 p.m.