The Cubs are in pursuit of Rangers left-hander Cole Hamels, who is likely to be dealt before next week’s non-waiver trade deadline, as the New York Post’s Joel Sherman first reported Thursday. They’re believed to be the team with the greatest chance of acquiring Hamels, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported, though the veteran insider cautions that the Braves will also have a chance to acquire the 2008 World Series MVP:
Sources confirm #Cubs’ pursuit of #Rangers’ Hamels, as first reported by @Joelsherman1. Along with low acquisition cost, this would be CHC’s rationale:— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 26, 2018
Hamels at home this season: 6.41 ERA, 16 HRs, 59 IP.
Hamels on road: 2.93 ERA, 7 HRs, 55.1 IP.
As Rosenthal writes, Hamels has been quite good on the road, but overall his numbers aren’t great this season. Over 20 starts, the four-time All-Star has a 4.72 ERA and 1.37 WHIP with 114 strikeouts and 42 walks in 114.1 innings. Despite the fact that the Rangers’ defense has been less-than-stellar in some spots, Hamels’ FIP — for the little that it’s worth — stands at 5.20, worse than his traditional earned run average.
Hamels has a ton of postseason experience (though so do most of the pitchers in the Cubs’ rotation), and it’s possible that he could provide a slight upgrade to the back of the starting five. He won’t come cheap, however; he’s making $22.5 million this season, and he has a $20 million club option with a $6 million buyout for 2019. The plus side of that for the Cubs, however, is that if they trade for him, they likely won’t have to give up too much from a farm system that has been significantly depleted as they’ve made deep postseason runs for the past two years.
However you frame it, this pursuit doesn’t make a lot of sense, as the Cubs have three healthy, effective veteran starters — Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and Jose Quintana — who are locked into rotation spots, another member of the rotation in Mike Montgomery who has pitched well enough to stay there despite his reputation as a swingman, and a veteran starter in Yu Darvish who has struggled this season and is currently on the DL but absolutely will have a rotation spot upon his return because of his tremendous prior track record. Offseason free-agent addition Tyler Chatwood, who has struggled over the last few months after a fantastic April, could be replaced by Hamels for the moment, but he’s already on track to be replaced by Darvish at some point anyway — and that’s not even factoring in veteran starter Drew Smyly, who is moving close to a rehab assignment and could be a rotation option in September after completing his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Hamels hasn’t been demonstrably better than Darvish this season — he’s actually been quite a bit worse than Chatwood in July, in fact — and there’s no argument to be made that he’s been better than Montgomery this season.
In a roundabout way, the addition of Hamels would almost certainly weaken the Cubs’ dominant relief corps — it’d force Chatwood, who is in the first year of a three-year, $38 million deal, to the bullpen, thereby having a domino effect. They could initially accommodate that move without much controversy by DFAing long reliever Eddie Butler, but following the returns of Darvish, closer Brandon Morrow, and righty reliever Anthony Bass from the DL, they’d likely be forced to option dominant rookie lefty Randy Rosario and make a couple of tough decisions with veteran relievers.