Phillies, Cole Hamels reach deal
"Words can't really describe the emotions that you get, and the way the fans were standing and cheering, that was ultimately the deciding point to be here," Hamels said.
More on Cole Hamels' Deal
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. finally locked up Cole Hamels. Now he has to figure out what to do with the rest of the team, writes Jerry Crasnick. Story
The good news for the Phillies is they were able to retain one of their best pitchers, Buster Olney writes, but the team's credit-card bills are starting to pile up. Blog
He had $144 million other reasons to stay, too.
Hamels on Wednesday signed a six-year contract worth an average of $24 million per season that prevents the 2008 World Series MVP from becoming a free agent in November. The deal includes a club vesting option for 2019 and a limited no-trade provision.
"It was long and laborious," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said about negotiations, which started last May. "We finally got to the finish line. (Six years) is unprecedented for the Phillies, but we did it with the right person."
The 28-year-old Hamels becomes the third Phillies starter making $20 million per season, joining Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. A three-time All-Star, Hamels passed up an opportunity to possibly get more money on the open market to stay with the team that drafted him in 2002.
"I wanted to give the Phillies every opportunity," Hamels said. "It's very hard to leave a place that you've had so many great memories. You don't want to miss it and not be a part of it. I know the organization has always done a good job of going out to win. We have great players here. You don't want to have to leave that or stray away and see them win and you're not part of it.
"I understand that free agency is great, those opportunities of the unknowing. But this is the place that I call home and want to call home for a really long time. I grew up watching Tony Gwynn play and he made San Diego his home for his entire career. That's ultimately what I want to make here in Philadelphia."
Hamels is 11-4 with a 3.23 ERA this season. The lanky lefty is 85-58 with a 3.38 ERA in seven years in Philadelphia. Hamels has never won more than 15 games in a season, and his 2.79 ERA in 2011 was the only time he was under 3.06.
Cole Hamels Strikes Megadeal
Cole Hamels' $144 million contract is the second-largest pitching contract in terms of total value in MLB history.
Largest pitcher contracts
|CC Sabathia, NYY||7||$161M|
|Cole Hamels, PHI||6||$140M|
|Johan Santana, NYM||6||$137.5M|
|Barry Zito, SF||7||$126M|
|Mike Hampton, COL||8||$121M|
Still, the Phillies were willing to pay big bucks to make sure they didn't lose a fan favorite.
"The reality is this is a commodity we know very well," team president David Montgomery said. "We know Cole as a talent. We know Cole as a competitor. We know Cole as his character and what he and (wife) Heidi have done as far as his foundation is concerned. We knew all along he was the right fit for Philadelphia."
Signing Hamels means the Phillies could potentially have $155 million committed to just 11 players for 2013. Montgomery said the team would consider exceeding the luxury tax threshold for the first time.
"We may very well need to do that to do the right things on the field," he said.
The Phillies had the second-highest payroll behind the New York Yankees at $174 million on Opening Day. But the five-time defending NL East champions are stuck in last place after battling key injuries and inconsistency this season.
With the non-waiver trade deadline looming, there's been speculation the Phillies could be sellers. That's not necessarily the case.
The Phillies have played better since the All-Star break, have all their regulars back and hope to make a run. They began the day 9½ games behind in the wild-card standings.
"We're committed to winning and trying to improve whether it's through the course of this deadline and beyond that," Amaro said.
Securing Hamels was the first step.
"We felt like it was the right thing to do under the circumstance with his performance, his age, his importance with our club," Amaro said. "Our goal is to continue to be a championship-caliber team, for now and the future. As I've said before, I think we have a much better chance with Cole as a major part of our rotation than without him."
Hamels reached the majors in 2006 after battling injuries in the minors. He went 15-5 with a 3.39 ERA in his first full season in 2007, establishing himself as the team's ace and helping the Phillies win the first of five consecutive NL East titles.
He was the team's ace in '08 when he went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five postseason starts. Hamels was MVP of the NLCS against Los Angeles and helped the Phillies beat Tampa Bay in five games for their second World Series title in franchise history.
But Hamels struggled in 2009.
He was just 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA that year, and pitched poorly in the postseason as the Phillies tried for a repeat. Hamels was passed over for veteran Pedro Martinez to start Game 2 of the World Series at hostile Yankee Stadium. Hamels then blew a 3-0 lead in a pivotal loss in Game 3, and New York took the series in six games.
Following the additions of Halladay and Lee, Hamels went from ace to No. 3 starter. He began 2011 as the No. 4 starter behind Halladay, Lee and Roy Oswalt. There's no doubt that Hamels is the team's best pitcher this season -- and now the richest, too. Halladay is 4-5 and Lee is 1-6.
"Having Doc and Cliff is a big part of why I wanted to be here," Hamels said. "To have two of the best pitchers in baseball, you can learn a lot from them and feed off them. When we get rolling, I feel no one can stop us."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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