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4 p.m. Friday deadline on $20 million option awaits Cubs and Cole Hamels

The Cubs are interested in keeping left-hander Cole Hamels, but the cost appears debatable with Friday’s 4 p.m. deadline approaching.

The Cubs can retain Hamels simply by picking up his $20 million option for 2019. But that could create further financial stress on their attempts to land a marquee free agent like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, and there appears to be some intrigue.

According to a tweet by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Cubs “might” make a trade before picking up Hamels’ option. The Cubs could decline the option, which would result in the Rangers — Hamels’ former team — paying a $6 million buyout and allowing him to become free agent. They, along with other team, then could negotiate with him.

But President Theo Epstein emphasized four weeks ago that he would like to retain Hamels, 34, who posted a 2.36 ERA in 12 starts after joining the Cubs on July 27.

The Cubs have 13 players under contract after the options of left-hander Jose Quintana ($10.5 million), and relievers Pedro Strop ($6.25 million) and Brandon Kintzler (player option for $5 million) were picked up this week.

Trading any of those three players would provide payroll relief but would thin their insurance with starting pitcher Yu Darvish and closer Brandon Morrow recovering from right elbow injuries.

Pitcher Tyler Chatwood, who is coming off a disastrous 2018 season, is owed $25.5 million over the next two seasons.

At any rate, Friday’s decision on Hamels could sculpt plans for the rest of what figures to be an eventful offseason.

mgonzales@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @MDGonzales

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