Hard work does, indeed, pay off. The Chicago Cubs picked up the $20 million option on the contract of veteran left-hander Cole Hamels on Friday.
In a widely expected move, the Chicago Cubs opted to retain four-time All-Star pitcher Cole Hamels on Friday afternoon. The club picked up the $20 million team option for 2019 but shed $7 million in payroll simultaneously, trading Drew Smyly to the Texas Rangers.
In essence, if all you’re looking at is the red line of the luxury tax threshold, Chicago kept the man who did everything in his power to save their season for just $13 million. The trade of Smyly helped even out the money side of things a bit, which helps ease the Cubs’ payroll concerns – at least for the time being.
Smyly never pitched a Major League game for the Cubs, but he did pitch in some simulated games and made a minor league rehab start. Heading into the 2019 season, the Cubs have seven potential starters: Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Mike Montgomery and Tyler Chatwood. Alec Mills and Duane Underwood Jr. are also available down in the minor leagues to start games in a pinch. Smyly was a casualty of having too much starting pitching depth.
After the trade deadline, Hamels was dominant in a Cubs uniform. After taking home Pitcher of the Month honors in August, thanks to a 0.69 ERA in six outings. On the whole, he posted a 2.36 ERA in 12 starts, pitching one complete game and striking out 74 across 76 1/3 innings. He also pitched two scoreless innings in the National League Wild Card game, coming out of the pen in the Cubs’ loss to the Rockies.
The move isn’t exactly a shock, but the Cubs could have very easily just declined the option and re-signed Hamels to a cheaper, longer deal. Something like two years for $30 million would have been an ideal contract. Hamels pitched well enough to return to the Cubs, regardless of his contract. Of course, there is always a chance they could work out a longer deal somewhere down the road.
The Chicago rotation, at least on paper, looks like one of the best in baseball, with Lester, Hendricks, Darvish, Quintana and Hamels slated to go to the bump every fifth day. It all comes down to health and consistency – two of the rotation’s shortcomings in 2018.