Among their needs this offseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers have yet to address their starting rotation. Dan Haren exercised his option to return in 2015, though then was apparently shopped, somewhat to his dismay.
Aces Jon Lester and Max Scherzer are free agents at the time of this writing, but with the Dodgers not necessarily in need of a frontline starter and being interested in lowering payroll, they haven’t been tied to either of the two pitchers. They were however, said to have joined the conversation for Cole Hamels.
At 30 years old, Hamels presents an interesting middle-ground between ace and back-of-the-rotation starter. Although the Philadelphia Phillies are believed to be interested in shaking free of the large contracts on their roster such as Hamels, the situation shouldn’t be considered a fire sale.
The Dodgers inquired on Hamels prior to the trade deadline last season and reportedly were told it would require their top three prospects in exchange for the southpaw. Months later, that may still be case in light of Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.’s comments.
According to ESPN’s Jayson Stark, Amaro Jr. views Hamels in the same light as Lester, Clayton Kershaw and David Price:
This is one of the best starting pitchers in baseball,” Amaro said. “He’s at a level with the [Clayton] Kershaws and [Jon] Lesters and [David] Prices. And some of the metrics say he’s even better in some respects. So like I’ve said, he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball, and we don’t have to trade him. And if we do decide to move him, it will be for something we think is appropriate.”
Off the bat it may be difficult to place Hamels in the that group of elite pitchers, but he did pitch better than his 9-9 record would suggest. His 2.46 ERA was ninth-lowest in all of baseball and 1.15 WHIP ranked 24th — two spots ahead of Zack Greinke.
Hamels also threw 204.2 innings last season, which is more than any Dodgers pitcher. Moreover, the southpaw recoreded 198 strikeouts (14th-most), which would be second-most on the Dodgers staff behind Kershaw.
Although Hamels went 1-2 in his final four starts of the year, he pitched at least seven innings in each outing and didn’t allow more than two earned runs; the stretch was part of a streak of 23 starts without giving up more than three earned runs.
Hamels is guarnateed $96 million through the 2018 season and his contract includes an $20 million team option for 2019 that will vest at $24 million should he pitch a combined 400 innings in 2017-2018 (with 200 innings coming in 2018) and avoid the disabled list with a shoulder or elbow injury at the end of 2018.