- Jesse Rogers, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- If and when Chicago Cubs starter Jason Hammel is traded, the 31-year-old right-hander says it doesn't mean he's closing the door on his Cubs career. The would-be free agent is open to returning.
"I would assume they are pretty happy with my body of work so far and if a trade happens it happens," Hammel said before throwing another quality start on Sunday. "But I guarantee, say I was to go to another team, I love it here. I guarantee you they wouldn't be opposed to bringing me back next year."
Hammel lowered his ERA to 2.99 after giving up two runs over seven innings in a 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday. In a lot of ways he's been just as good this season as Monday's starter, Jeff Samardzija. But it's Samardzija who is garnering most of the headlines and at least one last ditch attempt to be signed by the Cubs.
Hammel, who signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Cubs in the offseason, isn't in the same position. There are no contract talks going on.
"I'm open to it but nothing is happening," said Hammel, who will be 32 in September.
Industry sources indicate a lot of the same teams will be interested in Hammel and Samardzija, who throw back-to-back in the rotation. It makes it easy for scouts who are starting to fill up the seats wherever the Cubs play. There are only a few teams open for business in the way the Cubs are as there's a "For Sale" sign on several players but none can get the return that Hammel and Samardzija can bring.
"I have no Twitter," Hammel said. "I don't check my Facebook and unless someone shows it to me I don't know about it. I'm a 'live in the now guy.' We'll cross that bridge when it comes."
Viewed purely as a rental with some injury history, Hammel won't bring back the haul that Samardzija will. A contender can compete with Samardzija this season and next and then let him walk if they want while a team only gets Hammel for a few months. The Cubs were in a similar position last season when they moved Scott Feldman to the Baltimore Orioles and Matt Garza to the Texas Rangers.
The Cubs traded Feldman in early July when opposing teams had their full allotment of prospects since it was so early in trading season. They got Pedro Strop and Jake Arrieta in the deal which looks like a winner for Chicago. Some believe the Cubs will do the same with Hammel while letting the market build for Samardzija as it did for Garza.
"That was one data point," Cubs president Theo Epstein said recently. "We felt like a good opportunity did materialize. We didn't see the need to hesitate, but I don't think you can draw anything from that in respect to this year."
At this time last year Feldman wasn't sure of his future, but with the Cubs showing a consistent pattern of flipping veterans, Hammel has known since Day 1 what could happen. And he's been asked by the media about it since Day 1 as well.
"It's almost something I signed on for," he said. "I know what's going on. My wife is going nuts though."