Give Hamels what he wants.
One of my least favorite things (and most) favorite things about baseball season is the swirl of rumors that almost never seems to end. Whether it's the off-season, or the middle of the season, of even the beginning of the season, the rumors never seem to end.
And right now, there is a doozy of a rumor surrounding perhaps the most important man on the Phillies roster: Cole Hamels. And the latest entry in the rumor diary concerns the length of Cole's next contract, and it comes from the one and only Howard Eskin, of NBC10's Sports Final, via Twitter:
“Just reported on Sports Final @NBCPhiladelphia that I'm told cole hamels agent has told Phillies they r looking for "7" year deal.”
I take a very hard line “I'll believe it when it happens” stance towards rumors when it comes to contract negotiations and trades and such, because there is so much out there circulating around that you can't be sure of what is real and what isn't. Case in point: Before Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies before the 2011 season, sources had him signing with both the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees. Even now, folks have written about the Phillies discussing a potential trade with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Point is, some of this stuff might be true, but some of it might be nothing more than speculation by writers whose “source” is the brother of the former neighbor of the visiting team's bat boy -- not saying that is the case here of course.
At any rate, let's just say that the report about Hamels is true, and that he and his agent are in fact seeking a seven-year contract. It wouldn't be the craziest thing in the world, considering that fellow lefty C.C. Sabathia received a seven-year deal from the Yankees following his age 27 season, so it's definitely in line with what a starting pitcher of Hamels' ilk should receive.
And taking into consideration what Sabathia, Lee, and Matt Cain have all earned, it will probably take around $22 to $25 million annually to keep Hamels in a Phillies uniform. And if that's the case, then pay that man his money. I know that I'm not controlling the purse strings, but go ahead and give him whatever he wants. He is such a rare talent – and home grown – that it would be criminal to let him walk away. Even though the Phillies have taken an organizational stance on giving too many years to starting pitchers (not the worst idea in the world, considering the investment), I think that they can make an exception for Cole.
It's a lot of money, sure, but the Phillies aren't exactly hurting for cash. The stands are packed on a nightly basis, and they figure to have some payroll freed up in the offseason, assuming that Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton and Placido Polanco won't be back. Of course, that wouldn't leave them a lot of money to allocate to the offense and bullpen, but that's another post for another day.
The biggest thing about this, I think, is that Hamels will be all of 36 years old when his contract is over. Assuming that he takes a step back in the last few years of the deal, the Phillies would still be getting four years of prime Cole Hamels, which is pretty good, considering his sub-3.00 ERA over the past three seasons, plus the fact that he's pretty durable. And if you look at what the Phillies gave to both Roy Halladay and Lee, you'll see that both of their contracts take them through, at least, their age 36 season.
In the end, the Phillies would be a much better team with Hamels, than without him. He is an ace, he is young, and he is worth every single penny that someone is willing to pay him. And really, it doesn't even matter if these contract rumors or true. The Phillied need to pay the man, plain and simple.