One contract watch is over for Cole Hamels and another is just beginning.
Hamels and the Phillies avoided an arbitration hearing when they agreed to a one-year, 15 million contract on Tuesday (see blog).
The Phillies already had control of Hamels rights for 2012. The only mystery was how much of a raise would he get from the 9.5 million he made in 2011. Now that the numbers are official, things are about to get really interesting for Hamels and the Phils.
The 28-year-old lefty will be eligible for free agency at the end of the 2012 season and the big question is: Will he become the Phils next 20-million-per-year talent, joining Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay in that stratosphere?
Agent John Boggs would not put a number on his clients value on Tuesday night, but he sure made it sound as if thats what its going to take for the Phillies to retain Hamels beyond 2012.
At the appropriate time, Cole is looking to be compensated as one of the premier left-handed pitchers in baseball, Boggs said in a telephone interview from his San Diego office. Without putting a number on it, well leave it at the fact that hes an elite pitcher. Look and see what elite pitchers are compensated with. Hopefully at the end of the day well be able to get something done with the Phillies that will reflect that.
A quick look at some of the top lefties in baseball shows a number of contracts with average annual values of at least 20 million. One of them belongs to Lee, whose AAV is 24 million.
While Boggs did not want to put a specific number on Hamels value, he made it clear that he does not consider Jered Weavers five-year, 85 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels to be a valid comparable for his client. Weaver, who is a year older than Hamels and has similar career numbers, signed the deal in August. It carries an AAV of 17 million.
I dont think its a parallel, Boggs said of Weavers deal. That contract is great for Jered. I understand it. But he took a different path and left a lot of money on the table. He came up through the Angels system and grew up in their backyard. Hes pitching where he grew up. That situation appeals to him. Its a similar situation to when I had Tony Gwynn.
Without getting into specifics of what were looking for, the Weaver situation is unique to Weaver.
So the Phils would appear to have their work cut out for them in their quest to retain Hamels longterm. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. does not talk about the specifics of contract negotiations, but he did say he will continue to speak with Boggs and try to get a longterm deal done. Boggs said he was planning to visit with Amaro during spring training in Clearwater. The Phils have exclusive negotiating rights with Hamels until five days after the 2012 World Series, and Boggs said he hadnt considered setting any deadlines.
If Hamels stays healthy in 2012 and continues to improve he had a career-best 2.79 ERA and finished fifth in NL Cy Young voting in 2011 he will have plenty of suitors on the free-agent market. But his preference at this time is to get something done with the team that drafted him in 2002.
When youre this close to free-agency you have mixed emotions, Boggs said. But Cole has come through the Phillies organization, and if you asked him his preference, more than likely hed want to remain with the Phillies. Thats how it would be going into the negotiations, but every negotiation is different. Everything depends on our perceived value of what Cole is worth and what their perceived value of him is. That will dictate if a long-term deal gets done. Well always give the Phillies every opportunity to secure him.
Also Tuesday, the Phils avoided arbitration with utility infielder Wilson Valdez, who signed a one-year deal worth 930,000, up from 560,000 in 2010.
Hunter Pence is the teams lone remaining arbitration-eligible player and the two sides have exchanged figures. Pence filed for 11.8 million while the team came in at 9 million. The two sides could negotiate an agreement -- 10.4 million is the midpoint -- or go to a hearing during the first two weeks of February. If a hearing is needed, a panel of arbitrators will pick either the players figure or the teams figure. Pence went to the table last year and won a 6.9 million salary from the Houston Astros. He is not eligible for free agency until after the 2013 season.