MLB Free Agents: 3 teams that could grab Cole Hamels

BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 13: Cole Hamels #35 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 13, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 13: Cole Hamels #35 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 13, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /
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Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images. /

Set to turn 36-years-old next month, it could seem a bit surprising to see that Cole Hamels, will become one of several top MLB Free Agents.

Coming off a 7-year, $158 million deal that he originally signed with the Philadelphia Phillies back in 2013, Cole Hamels now joins a long list of MLB free agents.

A San Diego native and former 17th overall pick in the 2002 MLB Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies, Hamels has produced quite an impressive major league career, essentially a lock for 25-30 starts and 4 WAR during his prime years with the Phillies, from 2007-2015

Armed with an admittedly subpar low-90s fastball, Hamels has successfully maintained his velocity throughout his 13 seasons as a starter, leaning more on his filthy changeup, and for the last two seasons, an above-average cutter to get swings and misses.

In fact, according to FanGraphs‘ pitch value metric (runs-above-average), over the course of Hamels’ career, his changeup has averaged an incredible mark of 15.56 RAA.

Even better, since Hamels’ rookie season in 2006, he has the best-rated changeup (202.1 RAA) — measured by runs-above-average — in the majors (among all starters), 74.6 RAA better than the second-best pitcher, Felix Hernandez.

Other notable career rankings for Hamels since 2006, include 163 wins (8th in MLB), 2,691 innings pitched (2nd) and 51.7 WAR (t-5th). It’s safe to say Hamels has been a very good pitcher for quite a while now.

However, the eight-player deal that moved Hamels to the Texas Rangers in July of 2015 was the start of Hamels’ regression. No longer was he a consistent All-Star (2016 was his last AS game), but now more of a veteran innings-eater — though in 2015 he still managed to accrue 4.5 WAR between his time with the Phillies and Rangers.

His tenure in Arlington lasted just two in-a-half seasons, as Hamels was moved again at the trade deadline, this time the July deadline of 2018. His numbers in Texas (88 starts / 3.90 ERA) enticed the Chicago Cubs to take on Hamels’ contract plus some cash from the Rangers, as the Cubbies sent over Eddie Butler, a minor league pitcher, and a player to be named later.

Altogether in 2018, Hamels made 32 starts and finished with a strong 3.78 ERA — good for 2.2 WAR. Even at 34-years-old, the Cubs were impressed enough to pick up Hamels’ $20 million option for the 2019 season, though the uncertainty surrounding Yu Darvish could’ve also played a big role — Darvish dealt with injuries in 2018 and was limited to just eight starts.

Which leads us to this past season. Hamels managed to post his best campaign (by WAR) since 2016, despite dealing with a strained oblique muscle in late June. Even missing a little over a month in 2019, Hamels still produced 2.5 WAR, thanks to 27 starts and his highest K-rate since the 2015 season (9.08 K/9).

Throwing his fastball more in 2019 (he increased the use of his heater by roughly 3-percent), Hamels made better use of his cutter and also substantially increased the efficiency of his changeup, finishing with 11.6 RAA with the offering — his highest mark with that particular pitch since 2015.

Hamels also enjoyed a 5.5-percent decrease in hard-hit rate, surrendering just 17 home runs all season. The numbers speak for themselves… Hamels is certainly still a productive major league starting pitcher.

Fortunately for him, there’s an abundance of starting pitching needs (as there always is), including the team he spent the first decade of his career pitching for, the Philadelphia Phillies.

Creating even more suitable options for himself, this week Hamels announced that he’d be open to pitching on a one-year deal in 2020; perhaps a message to interested teams that he’s willing to prove his worth.

"“I’ll go every year. I’ll prove myself. I don’t mind having my back against the wall. I think I perform better like that anyway. It just keeps me more accountable.”"

While Hamels is not quite as seasoned in age, I recently wrote that the Cardinals were currently in the process of working up a contract for 38-year-old Adam Wainwright, more than likely on a one-year deal.

However, I believe Cole Hamels could possibly receive a bit better than that,  depending on the team and how bad it needs quality pitching (maybe a 2-year deal?) Although, with Hamels’ comment regarding his acceptance to a one-year fling, let’s explore a few teams that would be willing to reach out to the veteran righty, since the Cubs opted to decline offering Hamels a qualifying offer.