Thursday, March 8, 2012
No breakthrough in Cole Hamels talks
By Jayson Stark
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Cole Hamels' agent will head home Friday to California after a week in Florida. But he won't be packing a new contract in his suitcase.
Hamels' agent, John Boggs, and the Philadelphia Phillies' front office had several conversations in recent days about a contract extension for the 28-year-old lefthander. But neither side has given any indication they've made headway.
"At this point," Boggs told ESPN.com Thursday, "we're not going to discuss the negotiations. But I'm trying to remain positive. And that's all I'd like to say."
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. also declined to characterize the discussions, saying only that it is club policy not to comment on contract negotiations.
Hamels, the Phillies' No. 1 pick in the 2002 draft and the MVP of the 2008 World Series, is now just one year away from free agency. But this winter, the two sides were able to agree only on a one-year, $15 million contract, rather than a long-term deal.
Hamels is said to be seeking a contract in the same range as other ace lefthanded starters who have reached the free-agent market in the past few years. So it's unlikely he would be willing to sign for less than the five years and $120 million the Phillies offered Cliff Lee 15 months ago, when Lee was a free agent.
The Phillies, however, have a longstanding philosophy of not giving pitchers guaranteed contracts of longer than three years, except in special cases such as the Lee negotiations. So talks with Hamels have the makings of a standoff that now appears almost certain to stretch past Opening Day.
Many prospective free agents set deadlines on their negotiations, saying they don't want to deal with contract distractions during the season. But Hamels said again Thursday that he doesn't believe in those types of deadlines.
"I'm not the type of guy who needs to put parameters and barriers," he said after pitching 3 2/3 shutout innings against the Pirates in his second spring start. "I'm more focused on the process of going out to pitch. And I think that's what I know the team wants me to be able to do, because our ultimate goal is to win a World Series, not to play for a contract."
Hamels said he didn't consider his agent's visit to be particularly different than Boggs' annual spring trip to Florida to meet with him and a number of other clients.
"He just comes into town every year at about the same time," Hamels said. "So it's been kind of just like a normal spring training for us. I know he's got to go visit (other) guys. . . . So it's not like I'm seeing him every day, every hour."
Hamels was one of three Phillies starters to finish in the top five in the National League Cy Young Award voting. And while he knows he could sign elsewhere and be The Ace, he did concede Tuesday that he has a keen appreciation of what it means to be part of a rotation with starters as talented as Lee and Roy Halladay.
"(To be) one of the three, I think, is something pretty special," Hamels said. "I think if you ask (John Smoltz), (Tom Glavine) and (Greg) Maddux, when they were all together, what their feelings were, I think they probably all had the same sort of ideas. It's an honor to be one of three competitors who are really good at playing the game, and to get to watch them every couple of days and then go do your part."
At another point, Hamels said he considers himself "lucky" that the Phillies brought in Halladay and Lee to form such a "special" rotation.
But his two fellow aces each are earning more than $20 million a year. And it appears the only way the Phillies will be able to retain their third ace is to offer him a contract in that same range.