The Farewell Voyage?

If there was one thing I was concerned about entering this offseason, it was the possibility that the Phillies would fail to lock up Cole Hamels to a multi-year extension.

As you all know and are probably tired of hearing by now, the 2012 season will be Cole’s last under team control in his current contract situation. His three-year, $20.5M extension ended at the conclusion of last season, and ’12 will be his final year of arbitration eligibility. The logical comparison often bandied about is Jered Weaver‘s five-year, &85M extension, signed this past August. The numbers bear out a close comparison. Hamels is almost 15 months younger, but both pitchers have about six years of Major League service, separated by 0.08 in ERA, 114 strikeouts, 16 walks and 29.2 innings. Despite concerns – Weaver with his cross-body delivery and Hamels with Minor League arm trouble – both have been durable, starting 30-plus games each of their past four seasons.

Only one is signed past the 2012 season, though, and it ain’t the one pitching for the Phillies this season. And that is quickly becoming a problem.

CSN’s Jim Salisbury recently posted a piece which details the club’s focus in signing Hamels to a one-year contract. That it’s even come to that is damning. I’ve held to the belief for a couple years running now that, if Hamels is allowed to play the 2012 season as a walk year, he will indeed walk right out of Philly to a new home at season’s end.

Consider Cole’s possible competition on the free agent market next winter. Obviously, things could change depending on how players perform, injuries and other miscellany throughout 2012, but at this moment, this is the 2013 free agent market. Matt Cain will command money. Zack Greinke should also probably expect to receive a healthy contract, but not on the same level. The next tier includes guys like James Shields and Ervin Santana, both of whom have reasonably affordable options (or, in Shields’s case, may be traded for and extended by their new team). They would be a half step below Hamels to begin with, but if they don’t reach the market, that’s more power yet to Cole.

The point is, Hamels and Cain are the heads of the class. There’s little potential of a Ryan Madson-type positional market flooding preventing Cole from cashing in. And guess who’s lurking? The Yankees, for one, who have an obvious need and plenty of dinero. The Red Sox had some rotation issues, too. And that’s not to mention any number of teams that wouldn’t love to add an ace before he turns 30.

It’s all gut feeling at this point. What I may be feeling, you may be sensing the opposite. And sure, a decent one-year deal could keep Hamels placated and away from running the gauntlet of an arbitration hearing. But he doesn’t own this city any type of loyalty or discount, especially to a fan base which, on a maddeningly large scale, wanted him run out of town after an unlucky 2009 and a front office that seems to think Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon are worth major bucks, but not him. This is the game you play and the risk you take.

Hamels is entitled to every penny the market will bear, and he will get it, especially if he stays healthy and posts another non-2009. Call it fatalist or pessimist, but don’t forget to call it realist. The Phillies are big boys and can spend with the big dogs, but with more than $100M already committed to just six players in 2013, adding Hamels at potentially $17M-plus – a higher AAV than Weaver – will make the luxury tax loom even larger than it already does.

It’s an unnecessarily complex situation, given the Howard and Papelbon deals, but it’s complex nonetheless. Call it a kneejerk reaction, but as of this second, I don’t like the way this is shaping up one bit. Not one bit at all.

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39 comments

  1. Dany

    January 10, 2012 10:05 PM

    I’m with you Paul, but I also like to be proven wrong.

  2. Ken

    January 10, 2012 10:14 PM

    When Hitler took Poland, I didn’t sit there and say, well, maybe he had his reasons, but all the Phils have said is that they are focussed on a 1 year deal for Cole, based on “plenty of time”. The stupity of going longer before locking him up is blatantly apparent, and a lot long time documented everywhere. “Plenty of time” is shall we say curious. All that said, I’d have to hear honest reasons for continuing to delay this would be extension before ripping the management’s thinking. Maybe somewhere in those reasons is something credible. I doubt it, but who knows. All I KNOW is that they won’t tell us the logic behind a real curious strategy, or failure to extend so far, a time frame that feels like forever. But until then, I have to respect the possibility that maybe there’s some degree of sense to it that’s invisible to me.

  3. Craig

    January 10, 2012 10:24 PM

    I’m scurred. This would be absolutely horrible. A homegrown World Series MVP being shown the door when Papelbon is grossly overpaid following other less warranted contracts such as Moyer, Blanton, Howard, Ibanez, and Polanco.

    I, for one, would rather see our golden years in the hands of someone without the initials RAJ.

  4. hk

    January 10, 2012 10:34 PM

    I can only think of two reasons why they haven’t inked Cole to an extension yet. One is – as Paul describes – that RAJ has committed so much money to so few players in 2013 that he has decided they cannot afford to extend Cole. The other is that Cole is asking for such a large amount (i.e. a Cliff Lee-like $120M for 5 years) that the Phils have decided to wait until his price comes down. Neither bodes well for the Phils.

    It drives me nuts that they signed Papelbon, who they’re counting on for 60 IP per year, before they locked up Cole, who has thrown 845 innings (920 including the post-season) over the past 4 seasons.

  5. Paul Boye

    January 10, 2012 10:44 PM

    Ken-

    Your point is salient. There is little to no transparency when it comes to this front office. It’s frustrating for people like me, who desperately want to know motive but are instead left to speculate based only on what’s given. Could there be something going on behind the scenes? Absolutely. I’m sure there’s more we don’t know. All I’m reacting to is what’s presented to me, and from that, the conclusion I draw is not a pleasant one.

  6. Ajay

    January 10, 2012 11:03 PM

    Oh boy. I sense a trade coming.

  7. r ellis

    January 10, 2012 11:10 PM

    I’ve been waiting for this ever since they signed Lee last winter. I thought it spelled the end of the Cole Hamels era in Philadelphia. Paul’s mention about the loyalty factor looms large in this case IMO.

  8. Nik

    January 11, 2012 12:59 AM

    It is possible they will work on an extension once the season starts to avoid luxury tax issues, same as the Red Sox did with AGonz last season.

  9. Bill Baer

    January 11, 2012 01:12 AM

    Getting Hamels signed to an extension should have been the #1 priority this off-season. Instead the Phillies gave a $50M/4-year deal to a reliever.

  10. FromThisSeat.com

    January 11, 2012 03:43 AM

    I didn’t think the Phillies could keep all 5 of this rotation together. They got all of them at the right time for the right price. This is where a GM earns his stripes. With an aging offense, I sure hope the phillies have some aces in the farm system. Loved the Papelbon signing.

  11. lightsareout

    January 11, 2012 07:59 AM

    what if hamels came in asking for a ton of cash? wouldn’t it make sense for both sides to agree to a one year deal (and avoid the acrimony of arbitration) and work on a long-term deal during the season? of course a long term now would be the best course, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the phils have prioritized howard and a closer over hamels.

  12. Dan K.

    January 11, 2012 08:40 AM

    I’m going to hope for now that it is as Nik said; they’re discussing an extension and maybe even have one in-hand that they’re just waiting to ink during the season so that there aren’t any luxury tax implications.

    If Hamels walks, though, I will burn RAJ in effigy. And maybe for real, too.

    As for baby aces on the farm, yes we do have some, but they’re realistically at least 2-3 years away (likely 4-5 for Biddle).

  13. Keystone

    January 11, 2012 09:05 AM

    If I were Hamels agent not only would I be asking for a ton of cash I would be expecting a ton of cash. A quick comparison between Hamels and Lee careers show:

    Hamels ERA:3.39 ERA+:126 SO/9:8.5 BB/9:2.3
    Lee ERA:3.65 ERA+:117 SO/9:7.3 BB/9:2.1

    Hamels is 7-4 in the playoffs and Lee is 7-3

    much debate over the value of each award but I would consider a Cy Young award and a World Series MVP award to be a wash.

    All that and Cole Hamels is more than 5 and a half years younger than Lee!!! I would demand 120 mil.

  14. Keystone

    January 11, 2012 09:10 AM

    If I were Hamels agent not only would I be asking for a ton of cash I would be expecting a ton of cash. A quick comparison between Hamels and Lee careers show:
    Hamels ERA:3.39 ERA+:126 SO/9:8.5 BB/9:2.3
    Lee ERA:3.65 ERA+:117 SO/9:7.3 BB/9:2.1
    Hamels is 7-4 in the playoffs and Lee is 7-3
    much debate over the value of each award but I would consider a Cy Young award and a World Series MVP award to be a wash.
    All that and Cole Hamels is more than 5 and a half years younger than Lee!!! I would demand 120 mil.

  15. Paul Boye

    January 11, 2012 09:13 AM

    The problem with waiting to sign an extension is it’s likely a lose/lose situation for the club.

    Say they reach a 1-year agreement and Hamels has another good year. His price goes up more, and next thing you know, he’s going to command Lee money, especially with big-ticket bidders.

    If he has a bad year, well, that’s to the detriment of a team trying to win. If they can still be successful in spite of that, more power to them. But it would take a pretty damn bad year to drop his price significantly.

  16. B in DC

    January 11, 2012 10:17 AM

    Without Hamels, and assuming Blanton is not back, (really out on the ol’ limb, I know), your 2013 rotation would be Doc, Lee, Worley, Kendrick, and who? Ervin Santana, I guess. Or Austin Hyatt from the farm. Or maybe Trevor May. A little early for him, probably. Julio Rodriguez or Jon Pettibone, two of the other “baby aces” might be better suited to hold down a #5 spot in 2013 based on what guys like Lamar have said in the past. Ceiling not as high as May, but more well rounded at the moment, or thy were mid-season 2011, per Lamar.

  17. Phillie697

    January 11, 2012 10:43 AM

    If Hamels bolts after this season (or god forbid gets traded), I want EVERYONE of you who fing defended the Papelbon signing to eat donkey manure, nevermind what I want to do to RAJ. Yes, that’s how pissed I would be. Giving a fing closer $50M while letting probably one of the top 3 left-handed starters in the league, not even 30 years old to boot, walk is absolutely insane.

    My priority this off-season would have been 1) signing Hamels, 2) getting a SS, and finally 3) finding a closer. IN THAT ORDER. Instead, we look like idiots signing Papelbon right out of the gate to a ridiculous contract, we pretty much disrespected JRoll even if that contract made perfect business sense (we basically said, “we like Papelbon better than you”), and now we might lose Hamels. If RAJ has some “plan,” I want to know what that plan is, because right now, he doesn’t look like he has a clue.

  18. Bill Baer

    January 11, 2012 10:54 AM

    If Hamels bolts after this season (or god forbid gets traded), I want EVERYONE of you who fing defended the Papelbon signing to eat donkey manure

    I’m still waiting for all of the Howard contract defenders to eat their crow.

  19. Dan K.

    January 11, 2012 11:11 AM

    @Bill, to be fair, there is still a possibility they could be correct.

    Not to say I think they will be, but even if I disagree with them I would not presume to say I am correct before I have been proven to be.

  20. Bill Baer

    January 11, 2012 11:15 AM

    The contract isn’t justified by information we learn afterwards, though. As an example, if I’m a pitcher ahead 0-2 with the winning run on third and one out, throwing a fastball down the middle is pretty much the worst idea ever. If I throw it and the hitter swings through it, that doesn’t mean I was right to throw a meatball. :-P

  21. Dan K.

    January 11, 2012 11:47 AM

    But by the same token, we’re not correct by basing the decision on what WE know. We would need to know what THEY know. For instance, how much money does Howard make them, which, I would venture to guess, is vastly more than they paid him.

    There is also the tidbit that, as much as I like and promote sabrmetrics, that doesn’t mean the stats are correct. For all we know, how we calculate wins is completely off and Howard is well-worth his contract. I would think not, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility. In sports, what it comes down to is results. I wouldn’t advocate throwing a fastball down the middle, but if it works that’s what is important, not that generally speaking a change-up low and in would be a better pitch decision.

    The Cardinals may own the honor of being the worst world champion team ever (I’m not specifically talking about this year’s team)… but you know what? They won. They got their rings, and that’s what will be remembered above all else. I love the success the Phillies are having now, but I’d rather they win the WS than have the best record in baseball if I have to pick one or the other, to be frank.

  22. Dan K.

    January 11, 2012 12:27 PM

    Well part of my point that I haven’t been able to verbalize very well is that the side of sabrmetrics we’re discussing at the moment looks at the business aspect of the sport. However, it does completely ignore the business side of the business side of the sport, if you get what I mean.

    That is to say, we put a value on player performance in order to attempt to show how the team can best spend their money to get the most wins possible. That is important. But what we neglect completely is that it is still a business, and these men must balance winning with making the most money possible. Generally the two coincide, but in some instances they don’t. I would venture a guess that wins only generate extra value to a certain point. Does a 105 win team generate any extra value than a 101 win team?

    And then there’s also the fact that there’s the opportunity costs for wins. Chase Utley, for example, generates a ton of money for the organization. Not just for his play, but because people love him. Let’s say we replace him with a fictitious player which adds an extra win to the team. That’s great, the team generates extra money from that extra win. But what if the people don’t like him? What if he’s Scott Rolen? He’s terrific, but demands a trade and alienates himself from a big part of the fanbase. The organization then loses that money from merchandise sales and it could be a net loss in terms of money whereas it’s a net gain in terms of on-field product.

    This also all goes back to a post you made once before, we all have our own WAR. I’d say the organizations WAR is pretty clear cut; whoever makes them the most money is the best player. As far as on-field production goes, I think Howard’s money could have been better spent. You agree with me, as do many people on Crashburn. However, Howard could possibly live up to his contract, and the organization didn’t offer him the contract for his play alone to begin with. We could be right, it could be a bad contract. As far as on-field production goes, it would be foolish to expect Howard to live up to it. However, he generates revenue beyond his on-field performance, which very much matters to the front office.

    Two things that are slightly related to this, but not part of my argument:

    1) If I seem conflicted, it’s because I am. I love sabrmetrics because of my scholar side, but I’m also a baseball player and there are a lot of other things that matter to me as such. As a baseball player, I would never allow anyone to convince me that a hitting slump was due to bad BABIP luck, slumps are all on me. But as an outsider looking in, it’s very easy to use that explanation.

    2) I would love to see a study on generated revenues due to wins and at what point you start getting diminishing returns if anyone knows of one. If I could take it a step further, I would also like to compare that information to merchandise sales vs. player performance. It might help give a better idea as to why some players get certain contracts.

  23. Bill Baer

    January 11, 2012 12:50 PM

    I would love to see more business-centric analysis, but a lot of the information is either not made public or very hard to find. From what I remember though (I think someone may have posted a link in the comments in the last few months or so), Howard’s jersey wasn’t among the most popular in MLB at any time between 2009-11 and I don’t think he was tops with the Phillies either.

    We’d also need to know what portion of the Phillies’ revenue is made up by Howard’s merchandise. I would imagine that the value of a star player means more (in terms of merchandise sales) to a small-market, up-and-coming team than it does to an established large-market team. Overall, I’d imagine something like ticket sales makes more an impact on the Phillies’ bottom line than jersey and shirsey sales.

    Furthermore, most people who want a Howard jersey already have one. They’re going to buy that after his 56-HR season, not after his 31-HR season. Believe it or not, I bought a Howard jersey after his 2006 season. If Howard projects to decline from 2010 onward, it doesn’t make sense to offer him $125M for an expected surge in jersey sales.

    Very good points though.

  24. KH

    January 11, 2012 12:53 PM

    The Phillies shouldn’t be so worried about the luxury tax imo. They should be willing to pay some for a couple of years if it means keeping Hamels. This team is making a lot of money and one of there owners is a billionaire by himself. I know they probably won’t look at it that way but its a shame.

  25. jauer

    January 11, 2012 01:36 PM

    Revenues from merchandise are split evenly among all 30 teams, if im not mistaken

  26. hk

    January 11, 2012 02:45 PM

    jauer and BB,

    I believe that revenue from merchandise sold outside of each team’s stadium is split evenly among the teams, but the teams get 100% of what they sell inside their stadium stores. Regardless, it is inaccurate for anyone to use the “revenue from merchandise” argument to support the Howard contract for the following reasons:

    1. If Howard really was that much more valuable to the Phils than another 1B, they still erred in signing him so soon and most likely would not have had to pay him as much if they had extended him 12 months later (in April 2001).

    2. If the Phils had let Howard go and signed Fielder or Pujols as their new 1B, they probably would have generated more merchandise sales as you would expect more people to buy the new guy’s jersey than the current guy’s jersey since, as BB pointed out, many fans already have a Howard jersey.

  27. Phillie697

    January 11, 2012 03:00 PM

    I’ve already addressed the argument that “Howard brings in revenue through merchandise” in previous posts (trust he, he doesn’t bring in $20M a year worth of merchandise, which is what he pretty much has to do to make up for his lack of on-field performance), so I won’t rehash it here.

    Another thing that argument does not account for is that teams are paying $4-5M per WAR on a player for a reason, because winning SELLS!!! It sells tickets, it sells the over-priced food and beer at the stadium, it gets them super-duper local TV contracts, and yes, it sells merchandise! One Ryan Howard who performed at the level he has but on, say, the Florida Marlins will NOT sell as much merchandise as one Ryan Howard on a team that is a 5-time-straight division winner with a WS championship. That’s not attributable to Howard; that’s attributable to the team, and how does the team do that? Right, by paying the market rate for performance so that it can win. In essence, even IF you want to count the merchandise that Howard brings in, you must discount it by only counting the part of the merchandise sales that is attributable to him and him only because he’s a “star,” not his overall merchandise sales. On top of that, you also must account for the opportunity cost that hk just mentioned above. Trust me, after factoring all that, Howard is not bringing in $20M extra a year, business side or no business side.

  28. Phillie697

    January 11, 2012 03:21 PM

    @Dan K. – Also, while you are absolutely correct that there is an economic diminishing return on extra wins once you get, say, above 100 wins, there is also a competitive diminishing return on those extra wins as well, i.e. what’s the difference if you win 102 games or 105 games if you’re gonna end up with the best record in the league either way? So presumably, no team is going to aim to win 105 games when winning 102 (or even 100 or 98) is enough, so they will likely budget and spend accordingly. Obviously RAJ gave Howard a 5/$125M contract because he thought it was necessary from a competitive vantage, that we need that 5 wins a year to win. All that is a long-winded way of saying looking at marginal return on wins is not so helpful; Phillies won 102 games because we won 102 games, not because RAJ was aiming to lap the field.

  29. topherstarr

    January 11, 2012 04:14 PM

    Paul, I think you may looking too far into this. Arbitration numbers are due soon (Sunday?), and I would guess that both the Phillies and the Hamels camp would not want to get into an arbitration slugfest if they are trying to negotiate a long-term deal in good faith.

    If that’s the case, they should put on happy faces and announce a one year pact now, which could be replaced by a long-term deal sometime between now and opening day.

    Or, perhaps the parameters of a long term deal are in place (or close), but they are waiting until after opening day to announce it because of the luxury tax, similar to what the Red Sox did with Adrian Gonzalez last season.

  30. paulma2zak

    January 12, 2012 01:13 PM

    How idiotic is it to think the Phillies have plans to convert Papelbon to a starter in 2013? I immediately thought of this when I heard of the possibility of a one year deal for Hamels. That along side the fact the Phils have so many MLB ready relievers in the high farm system is making me wonder if Papelbon could start.

    I know he hasn’t started in about six years, but if he can be an above average starter, his contract goes from disaster to brilliant (from the ownership’s stand point).

    Note that I really don’t know much about Papelbon (or the majority of AL players) other than he’s a reliever that gets by very well on his fastball. Does he have the secondary pitches to get outs as an MLB starter?

  31. r ellis

    January 12, 2012 04:15 PM

    Papelbon to start in place of Cole Hamels? No offense but on what planet does that happen?

  32. Phillie697

    January 13, 2012 10:17 AM

    Even if Papelbon CAN start, there is absolutely no way he would be as good as Hamels. So basically you signed an inferior “starter” to replace a superior starter. On what planet is that “brilliant” from ANYBODY’S stand point? And the fact that the Phils have so many MLB ready relievers in the high farm system… Isn’t that proof positive that we SHOULDN’T have signed Papelbon and just gave the money to Hamels? You’re just making shit up to try to justify a terrible deal, and doing it badly I might add.

  33. Jeff

    January 13, 2012 12:00 PM

    You know what would be even more brilliant? If Papelbon could become an above-average 1B at half of Howard’s salary. Yeah, that’s not happening either.

  34. JB Allen

    January 13, 2012 01:01 PM

    What’s the evidence that RAJ has ever been serious about re-signing Hamels? I can’t help but think that if he really was, the Papelbon and Howard signings wouldn’t necessarily change that.

    Please note that I’m not trying to justify or argue for those two contracts. I’m just wondering if, rather than having no clue as to what he’s doing, RAJ has a very clear, very bad idea, and he’s sticking with it. Although I guess it doesn’t matter whether it’s horrible resource management or just willful stupidity, if the results are the same.

    www.break.com/tv-shows/saturday-night-live/bad-idea-jeans-626185.html

  35. Phillie697

    January 13, 2012 01:07 PM

    I’m hoping he’s really just waiting until the season to start to extend Hamels. Seriously, I really cannot believe even RAJ is THAT stupid as to wanting to sign Papelbon at the expense of losing Hamels. I’m holding out hope.

  36. Phils_Goodman

    January 15, 2012 08:42 PM

    Hopefully the Pineda trade allays _some_ anxiety about the Yankees swooping in.

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