Should the Yankees Trade for Cole Hamels?

 

Cole Hamels

The Yankees are in Texas and faced Cole Hamels, and because of Hamels’ impending free agency, the fact he’s on a bad team and the Yankees need starting pitching, it only makes sense that everyone envisions Hamels as a Yankee by July 31.

Do I want the Yankees to trade for Hamels? I don’t know? Maybe? It really depends on the asking price. And if that asking price involves Clint Frazier, then no, I don’t want the Yankees to trade for Hamels. But if the asking price is a salary dump and/or lesser prospects, then sign me up.

Hamels will have a little less than $8 million left on his 2018 salary at the trade deadline, and with him having the power to block a trade to the Yankees, he might be looking for them to pick up his $24 million option for 2019 in order for him to allow a deal. (His option would have vested if he pitched 400 innings between 2017 and 2018, but he only pitched 148 in 2017, and certainly isn’t going to pitch 252 this season.) A demand like that would likely scare the Yankees away as that money would be better used on the upcoming free-agent class. If Hamels made a wild demand like that, then the Yankees should be out on him. But let’s say the Yankees want to trade for Hamels and he doesn’t want anything other than the chance to pitch for the World Series favorite …

This isn’t three years ago when the Rangers traded for 31-year-old Cole Hamels, and it’s not even two years ago when 32-year-old Cole Hamels was an All-Star and went 15-5 with a 3.32 ERA for the AL West champion Rangers. And even though it’s brought up in every mention of Hamels, this most definitely isn’t the NLCS and World Series MVP of a decade ago. This is a 34-year-old impending free agent, who has pitched to a 3.38 ERA with the best K/9 ratio (9.8) since his 2006 rookie season (9.9), and who went seven innings, allowing two earned runs (both solo home runs) to the Yankees on Wednesday night, handing them just their fourth loss in 25 games.

An oblique injury in 2017 kept Hamels out for two months, but aside from last season, the last time he didn’t pitch at least 200 innings in a season was in 2009 when he pitched 193.2. He has been as durable as any starting pitcher in the league over the last 10 years, and you won’t have to worry about injuries with him the way you would with Michael Fulmer or James Paxton. And you wouldn’t have to worry about wildly inconsistent starts from him the way you would with Danny Duffy or Chris Archer. And he wouldn’t cost nearly as much as any of those four, and he’s most likely better than all four as is.

The Yankees’ two biggest threats to winning the AL pennant are the Astros and Red Sox. This season Hamels has made the following starts against both:

March 29 vs. Houston: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 2 HR

April 13 at Houston: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ,ER 2 BB, 7 K, 2 HR

May 5 vs. Boston: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HR

May 11 at Houston: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 0 HR

In four starts against the Astros and Red Sox, Hamels has pitched to the following line: 23.2 IP, 17 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 11 BB, 24 K, 5 HR, 2.66 ERA, 1.183 WHIP.

When you add in his start against the Yankees, Hamels has pitched to the following line against the three best teams in baseball: 30.2 IP, 21 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 13 BB, 31 K, 7 HR, 2.64 ERA, 1.109 WHIP.

Yes, that home run total is a little high, but again, this is against the three best teams in baseball. Those numbers are pretty freakin’ good.

The Yankees have given Domingo German a chance to take over Jordan Montgomery’s rotation spot, and he has turned in one great start and two A.J. Burnett-like starts. But if German can’t get on track, then turn to another in-house option, and if that doesn’t work, turn to another. Exhaust all in-house options over the next nine-plus weeks before deciding to go out and potentially trade a future star for a two-month rental or cost-controlled starter, who might not make a significant difference and might not make a difference at all.

The Yankees were good enough to come within one win of the World Series last season with the same team that now has Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. That might be enough to get that win and four more after that, but if it’s not, getting a starting pitcher should be. Cole Hamels is the best option to be that starting pitcher.

 

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