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Breaking down Cole Hamels’ future long term deal: Can the Phillies afford him?

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As you all know by now, Cole Hamels recently avoided arbitration and inked a 1-year $15 million year deal with the Phillies for 2012.
 
And if you think that’s a lot of money (which most of us mere mortals do), you ain’t seen nothing yet. And no, I’m not talking about the Bachman-Turner Overdrive song.Cole Hamels photo: Bleacher Report

Hamels will really make an interesting case whenever the time comes to sign his big deal. His Phillies teammates Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are making $20 and $24 million in 2012, respectively, and rumor has it that Hamels will command close to Halladay or Lee money.

While Halladay and Lee do have three Cy Young Awards between them and Hamels has yet to win any at this point in his career, he does have an NLCS and World Series MVP, which is quite impressive on any resume for a prospective employer.

The fact that Hamels is a  lefty doesn’t exactly hurt his cause, and don’t let his overall record fool you either. After all, Hamels has finished in the top 10 twice in the Cy Young Award voting while never amassing more than 15 wins in a season. The historical lack of run support for Hamels doesn’t hide the fact he’s arguably one of the top six starters in the entire National League. You also need to take age into consideration here as well. Hamels will be 29 year of age when he signs his next deal. Lee was 31 and Halladay was 32 when they signed theirs.

If you look at some of the following pitchers who currently have a higher 2012 salary than Hamels, there’ no way he WON’T get more than most of these pitchers when the time comes.

Johan Santana- $22.9M (injured)
Carlos Zambrano- $18.3M (valium anyone?)
Barry Zito- $18M (one of the worst contracts of all-time)
Jake Peavy- $17.3M (23-19 since 2009)
A.J. Burnett- $16.5M (insert punchline here)
John Lackey- $16.5M (fried chicken in the front, Playstation 3 in the back, Tommy John Surgery in 2012)

Whoever Hamels ends up negotiating with, chances are he’ll most likely be compared to Jered Weaver. However, Weaver, who signed an $85 million dollar extension last August ($17M if you’re keeping score at home), reportedly left money on the table because of his desire to stay in his home state of California. The deal also bought out his first year of arbitration in addition to his first four years of free agency. Hamels will be a free agent for the first time in 2013.

Then there’s the Giants’ Tim Lincecum. If Lincecum gets the $21.5 million he wants in arbitration, you have to imagine Hamels could get a similar deal.  Hamels has five more lifetime wins (74) than Lincecum (69), but Lincecum’s numbers are (all-around) a smidge better than Hamels,’ including back to back Cy Young Awards and a lifetime ERA of 2.97 compared to Hamels’ 3.74. You also have to take into consideration however, that Hamels has pitched in the far-less spacious Citizens Bank Park for his career. Lincecum pitches at AT & T Park, where your family could have a nine-inning softball game and a picnic on the field while a major league game is taking place. Despite having a sub .500 record in 2011 at 13-14, Lincecum won one less game than Hamels and was fifth in the league in ERA (2.74) and third in strikeouts (220).Cole Hamels

Of course, there’s always the risk of injury. Scouts have been saying for years that Lincecum will eventually break down due to his small frame and unorthodox mechanics (he is called “The Freak” for a reason). Hamels, had a strained elbow in 2007 and the shoulder inflammation last summer, but no prolonged problems where teams would be less inclined to offer him less money.

Perhaps the biggest question here is whether the Phillies can afford to pay another one of their starters $20-plus million a year in 2013 when they’ll still have Halladay, Lee, Chase Utley ($15 million), Ryan Howard ($20 million), Jimmy Rollins ($11 million), Hunter Pence (somewhere in the range of $11 million or more), and Jonathan Papelbon ($12.5 million) all on the books. And we haven’t even mentioned the long-term implications for Shane Victorino, who becomes a free agent after 2012.

What do you think?  Is 5 years and $125 million with a sixth year option fair? Or will Hamels get CC Sabathia money? (7 years and $161 million).  

Something’s got to give, but either way you slice it, Cole Hamels is going to strike a very rich deal in 2013.

If not with the Phillies, then somewhere else.

 

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Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com                                                                                                 

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