How much will it really take to sign Hamels?
Regardless of whether or not Cole Hamels signs an extension with the Phillies before the trade deadline or ultimately hits free agency by season's end, it's becoming clearer with each passing day that he'll be far from cheap.
As CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury
has already noted, the 2012 Phillies are right up against Major League Baseball's current $178 million luxury tax line, and even though that threshold will rise to $189 million from 2014 to 2016, the team already has over $112 million committed to just 12 players in 2013.
The Hamels deal, we don't need to tell you, would only further inflate an already ballooning payroll. And considering that neither ownership nor Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. has provided any definitive response about how willing or unwilling the franchise is to take on an extra tax burden, it's even tougher to tell just how cost prohibitive a deal would be.
So just how expensive are we talking?
Hamels' agent, John Boggs, has has said his client is seeking an "elite" contract, which, according to Salisbury
, is likely "$24 million per season -- the same as Cliff Lee -- over five or more years."
As for other comparisons, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman
is writing that Phillies are preparing a deal, potentially worth $130 million over six years, based on the contract Matt Cain signed with the Giants this past off-season. Cain's was a five-year extension worth $112.5 million that, in addition to the one year and $15 million San Francisco still owed him, came out to six-year, $127.5 million total commitment.
Then again, and as painful as it is to say, that might even be the low-end of a potential deal for Hamels. The top of the market for pitching contracts can be found in the offers accepted by John Santana in 2008 and C.C. Sabathia in 2009. Santana signed for $137.5 million over six years and Sabathia for, brace yourself, $161 million over seven years.
Those are the finances, but, of course, Hamels needs his numbers on the field to earn him they money off it. And that's where this discussion becomes the most expensive. Hamels has posted a lower ERA than both Santana and Sabathia in each of the last three seasons, a lower WHIP than Santana over that same span, and a lower WHIP than Sabathia over the last two seasons.
If there's any sign of relief, Cain's numbers (2.56 ERA, .955 WHIP) are better than Hamels' (3.07, 1.087) thus far in 2012, but that may only mean that the Giants got off comparatively easy. And if the Phillies are really crafting a deal for Hamels' around Cain, than a seventh year, should they offer it, could push the offer above $150 or even $160 million in total.
Bottom line -- if he wants to, based on the contracts previously awarded to top-shelf pitchers, and the numbers he's compiled since those deals were signed, Cole Hamels will have every opportunity to break the bank.
And some club, be it the Phillies or another organization, will happily oblige his legitimate demands.E-mail Nick Menta at email@example.com