Seattle Mariners Trade-a-Day: Cole Hamels
Happ. Boyd. Lynn. Nova. These are just some of the starting pitchers you’ll hear linked to the Mariners over the next month. But there is one name that seems to be going over everyone’s heads, and it may be the name that makes the most sense for the M’s in 2018.
That name could really help the Mariners. That name is Cole Hamels.
As the Texas Rangers continue to spiral down a bleak abyss, they’re looking to offload some of their veteran contracts in July. Hamels tops that list, with a minimum $17 million still owed to him, and a maximum of $31 million.
$6 million buyout in 2019 and all, the contract is still a hefty price to bear for a team clearly heading to a rebuilding period. For the Mariners, it’s an opportunity to snag a significant starting pitcher without a huge cost of prospect capital.
Before we move forward, let’s quickly look at a similar option for the Mariners: J.A. Happ. The Blue Jays’ southpaw is not only a year older than Hamels, but he’ll cost more than Hamels and offer absolutely no club control.
The Mariners have been down this road before with Happ. While he may be a different pitcher than he was in 2015, he’s still J.A. Happ, and he is definitely not worth the potential asking price of Kyle Lewis.
Hamels won’t cost you Kyle Lewis, Evan White, or even Sam Carlson for that matter. There probably won’t be much of a bidding war for him either, considering teams ahead of the Mariners have better capital to acquire someone like Happ or even Chris Archer without batting an eye.
Money shouldn’t be an issue for the Mariners, who can easily assume the remaining ~$9 million Hamels will still be owed by the end of July. That draws the price down a bit.
So, what’s the offer?
In this deal, the Mariners take on the full contract of Hamels. Of the three players heading to Texas, only one of them (Whalen, #19) is listed in the Mariners’ top 30 prospects by MLB Pipeline.
But it’s still somewhat of a tough bullet to swallow, especially with Elledge. In 2018, Elledge has torn up High-A ball with an insane K/9 of 13.18. He should be on the move to Arkansas soon, and could even find himself on an MLB roster in September if he’s traded to a non-competitive team such as the Rangers.
Whalen’s departure would cause the Mariners’ pitching depth to take a significant hit. But it’s one the Mariners can endure, considering the significant veteran talent they’d add with Hamels.
Ojeda has bounced back from a poor 2017 with a 135 wRC+ in Single-A Clinton this year. The problem with Ojeda is his defense, causing him to project a ceiling as a fourth outfielder in the MLB. The M’s have also tried him out at first base, but it hasn’t seemed to be much of a fit there either.
Still, Ojeda’s bat could thrive in Arlington, making him an interesting prospect for the Rangers.
The meat and potatoes of the deal, however, is Hamels. As I mentioned, in my proposal the Mariners take on full responsibility for Hamels’ remaining contract. The good news is, if Hamels is not the pitcher the Mariners hope he will be, they’re not stuck paying him $20 million in 2019.
Though the price of a $6 million buyout is not ideal, it still keeps the future full of options for Jerry Dipoto.
On the field, Hamels immediately upgrades Seattle’s starting rotation. While Wade LeBlanc has been a great story, his last two mediocre starts indicate what we’ve all expected: his success isn’t built to last.
Hamels would fill in LeBlanc’s role, giving the Mariners a rotation of Hamels, James Paxton, Mike Leake, Marco Gonzales, and Felix Hernandez. It’s not a sexy group, but it’s one that can sustain games and give you a chance against the Yankees and Red Sox’s of the world.
Since last year, Hamels has regressed quite a bit, but it might not all be his fault. Pitching in Arlington can do awful things to a pitcher’s line, as well as being on a bad team. Hamels’ strikeout and walk numbers are still roughly the same as they’ve been his entire career.
The problem for Hamels in 2018 has been the home run ball, giving up 20 so far. Only Jakob Junis has given up more (22). Pitching in Safeco Field on a consistent basis should lower that, though that didn’t prevent Ariel Miranda from giving up 37 dingers last season.
Still, Hamels is a better pitcher than Miranda, and this home run issue is something Hamels has never really experienced. It should be something to cause the Mariners minor concern, but should definitely not scare them away from this deal.
It’s just too good to pass up.
Next: Mariners Trade a Day: Jalen Beeks
This is a veteran pitcher who can give you a similar boost to what the Astros received in Justin Verlander last year. He won’t cost you much, and his contract doesn’t tie you up too bad. If he’s good, you’re guaranteed another year of him. If he’s not, paying him $6 million to pitch elsewhere isn’t the worst thing in the world.