Cole Hamels' agent, Phils still talking
Sources say the sides are still hung up -- not so much on dollars but the length of the new deal.
Meanwhile, Hamels says he's only focused on winning a World Series, not on his next contract. The Southern California native also couldn't escape the fact that the nearby Los Angeles Dodgers were recently sold for $2 billion and new management has indicated it wants to restore a winning tradition.
Asked Thursday about the sale of the Dodgers to a group fronted by Magic Johnson, Hamels quipped: "I didn't know Magic Johnson knew anything about baseball. That's my reaction. ... But it's nice to know that all major league teams now have functioning ownership."
That new functioning ownership would seem to be a perfect candidate to sign a 28-year-old ace-type left-hander next winter. But when asked how he thought the Dodgers' sale might affect his bargaining power, Hamels said: "I'm not where I think about that at all."
Hamels' side, including agent John Boggs, is believed to be seeking a contract similar to the six-year, $137.5 million contract that Johan Santana signed with the Mets a year before he could have become a free agent. The Phillies are pushing for a shorter four-year deal. Hamels is already signed to a one-year, $15 million contract for 2012.
Asked how he'd categorize his negotiations with the Phillies, Hamels said: "It's all in Ruben's hands. That's kind of just where it is. If I just get in good shape and play, the Phillies will make offers and we'll counter, I guess, until things look the way they need to look. And then you go about it. And we'll let you guys know if it happens."
Hamels, after throwing 5 2/3 innings of three-hit, one-run baseball against Tampa Bay, said he never came to spring training with a goal of signing a contract before the season.
"Like I said before, I've never put any sort of deadline on it. I've got, I guess, 'til the start of spring training next year. I mean, I guess that's kind of what it's down to. So we've got 162 games to play and then postseason and then try to go to the World Series. That's always been my focus, to get in the best possible shape to win the World Series, because that's just who I am. I just want to win. ... And winning a championship for the city of Philadelphia is the only focus I've ever had."
Hamels said his understanding is the Phillies don't want to sign him before Opening Day because then "they'd have to deal with the luxury tax." However, one source says that baseball has changed its luxury-tax rules in the last year, so there would be no luxury-tax implications on the team for 2012 regardless, as long as Hamels' salary for this year remained unchanged.
Asked whether his gut feeling was the Phillies would find a way to sign him, since they've been able to keep all the other homegrown members of their nucleus, Hamels said: "It's a great feeling to know they really value their homegrown guys, especially the guys that they've developed and that they've taken with high-round picks. ... I think the Phillies have definitely shown they want to keep those guys around. That's how you build a team. And I guess I'm fortunate enough to have the years in my favor, just with how young I am."
At the current rate of negotiations, the rumors and dollar signs seem likely to keep swirling over his head when he takes the mound to start the Phillies' home opener on April 9. But Hamels said he's planning to tune all of that out and simply keep pitching.
"It's something where, if I just play," he said, "things are just going to work out."