CHICAGO -- Cole Hamels has thrown a no-hitter, pitched in All Star Games, competed in pennant races, and was the MVP when he earned his World Series ring.
He has checked almost every box in his 14 major-league seasons. But there’s still one thing Hamels has never experienced: free agency. Unless the Cubs sign him to an extension during the season, that will change this offseason, when the contract he signed in 2012 while still with the Phillies comes to an end.
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Hamels will be 36 by the start of next year, but he still wants to pitch a few more seasons. He seemed to re-energize his career with the Cubs and has a 3.38 ERA this season after 10 starts. He’s not the same pitcher he once was, but he’s still a solid and dependable starter.
If Hamels becomes a first-time free agent, teams will be interested. And the Phillies, especially after watching their rotation get tested this season, could be one of the interested parties.
“Yeah, but they don’t give multi-year deals anymore to old guys,” Hamels cracked about the Phillies. “It’s a year-to-year basis.”
The Phillies were reluctant to add a starter this winter, opting against signing veterans such as Charlie Morton and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals in favor of giving their young pitchers a shot. But that thinking could change next winter.
Hamels still owns a home in Delaware County and his children attend Episcopal Academy. It has been four years since Hamels pitched for the Phillies, but he has yet to leave the area. Would Hamels have interest in returning to his old team?
“It’s always a thought of mine. I’ll never try to alienate or write somebody off,” Hamels said. “... I know Philly is finally getting into where they can make a five-, six-, seven-year run like we did and take back that division.
"To be a part of something that special, I would consider it. But I know that I have to play well and everything leans on that, and if I fit well in the dynamic. As long as I take care of business on the field, than I think that allows the options to be there.”
Hamels, even if his first-time free agency leads him elsewhere, will always be tied to the Phillies because of the people who helped shape his career.
He called the Phillies earlier this week with a special request. Hamels wanted one of the patches the team is wearing this season in memory of David Montgomery, the former Phillies president who Hamels said helped him see that he could make an impact that was bigger than baseball.
“David kind of introduced me to the power of a platform besides baseball and what it meant to play baseball in the city of Philadelphia and really kind of embrace being somebody living in the community and just kind of understanding that the game of baseball is amazing but there’s a lot more to life,” Hamels said.
“He really was instrumental in making that an impact on me and my life. I think it’s just important to know who he was and I acknowledge it in a way I think I can, and it’s something I’ll always have an always cherish.”
Hamels received his patch -- a black circle with Montgomery’s initials -- before the series finale Thursday afternoon. He thought about wearing it on his uniform the night before when he pitched for the first time against the Phillies. But Montgomery, Hamels said, would not have liked the attention to be on him.
He tucked the patch into his pocket and said he planned to put it in his Wrigley Field locker, serving as a reminder of a man he cherished. A piece of Philadelphia had joined Hamels in his new home. And perhaps next season, Hamels can bring that patch back home.
“I’m going to be staring at it every day,” Hamels said. “It’s important. I’m thankful that I get to play the game of baseball, but what he has taught me has made me more of a better person and a man because I got to grow up there. The lessons that I learned and the maturity I gained had a lot to do with him.”