We interrupt the daily doldrums of this Phillies season for the Cole Hamels edition of Extra Innings. The second-best left-hander in franchise history is returning to Citizens Bank Park with the Chicago Cubs this week and will pitch in his former home ballpark for the first time since July 19, 2015 on Wednesday night in a marquee matchup against Phillies ace Aaron Nola.
The struggling Phillies should hope he pitches the same way he did the last time he stepped on the CBP mound. That night, Hamels allowed five runs on eight hits in three innings against the Miami Marlins, but the Phillies rallied for a walk-off win. Six days later, he pitched a no-hitter against the Cubs at Wrigley Field before being traded to the Texas Rangers on July 31.
Wednesday is most definitely a date that Hamels has circled on his handy, dandy Cubs calendar. He acknowledged when he came to town last season after being traded from the Rangers to the Cubs that he wanted to pitch in his old ballpark and he wanted to go against Jake Arrieta or Nola. Now he gets his chance.
“As much of an appreciation as I have for the city, I think they do for me. It’s really mutual,” Hamels said late last season. “This is a tremendous place to play. To win here was absolutely amazing. There aren’t enough words to describe that sort of experience. This is a great organization for guys to come up in and learn about baseball."
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Perhaps the biggest mistake general manager Matt Klentak made at last year’s trade deadline was failing to make a deal to bring back Cole Hamels to Philadelphia. There’s no mistaking that Hamels still loves Philly because he still lives here, and the price to pry the veteran lefty away from the Rangers was not that steep.
In return for Hamels, the Cubs sent pitchers Rollie Lacy and Eddie Butler and outfielder/first baseman Alexander Ovalles to the Rangers. Lacy, 24, has since been dealt to Tampa Bay and has not pitched this season. Butler, 28, has a 5.80 ERA in 79 career big-league games and a 4.76 ERA with his South Korean team this season. Ovalles, 18, has a chance to be a big leaguer, but he just advanced to low-A ball this month.
I have to believe Klentak could have put together a better package than that if he really wanted Hamels back in Philadelphia.
Unless Hamels re-signs with the Cubs before the end of the season, the Phillies will have another shot at him when he becomes a free agent in the offseason. There’s no doubt Hamels lived up to the contract he signed with the Phillies in 2012. It was a six-year deal worth $144 million that became seven years and $160 million when the Cubs picked up the option year before this season.
During that seven-year stretch, Hamels has gone 71-57 with a 3.43 ERA in 202 starts. Only 13 pitchers in baseball have a lower ERA than Hamels during that period, and only nine pitchers have logged more innings.
Since leaving the Phillies, Hamels has gone 48-27 with a 3.62 ERA in 119 starts. He has also reached the postseason in three of his four years since leaving the Phillies and appears headed back there this season with the Cubs. That would give him nine playoff appearances in the first 14 years of his career.
As for the six-player haul the Phillies got for Hamels, none will be around for the lefty’s return to Citizens Bank Park this week. Alec Asher, 27, is playing in the Atlantic League. Jorge Alfaro is with Miami after being dealt to the Marlins in the J.T. Realmuto trade. Jerad Eickhoff is recovering from a biceps injury. Matt Harrison never pitched again after the trade, although the Phillies knew that was going to be the case at the time of the deal. Jake Thompson is pitching in high-A ball with Detroit after starting this season in South Korea. And, finally, Nick Williams is at triple-A Lehigh Valley after struggling as a bench player this season in the big leagues.
There’s the history of the Hamels trade, and now for the question: Should the Phillies still be interested in Hamels as a free agent after this season?
Hamels will turn 36 two days after Christmas, and obviously it’s a risk any time you sign a player, let alone a pitcher, at that age. But Hamels has proven the last two years with the Cubs that he still knows how to pitch and the Phillies could certainly use an elite lefty in their rotation. Hamels’ presence in the clubhouse would also be welcome because he obviously knows what it is like to pitch in big games.
If they could get him on a three-year deal for $60 million, it would be worth it and it would also be the same financial risk the Houston Astros took on when they dealt for Zack Greinke at the deadline. So the answer is yes. The Phillies should bring back Cole Hamels this offseason, and they should go hard after Gerrit Cole, too.
With Phillies hitters in a monumental struggle to come through in the clutch, our Scott Lauber caught up with hitting coach John Mallee to get his input on the situation.
It sure is beginning to look like another one of those wait-until-next-year seasons that we are far too familiar with here in Philadelphia, and if that’s the mode you’ve chosen, Matt Breen has all the details about next year’s schedule right here.
Lenny Dykstra in the boxing ring: Isn’t that what everybody wants to see? Well, ready or not, it’s happening. Dykstra, 56, is going to fight somebody known as the “Bagel Boss” on Sept. 7 in Atlantic City.
If you are worried about the Phillies’ most valuable mascot, the Phillie Phanatic, becoming a free agent, you need to read Oona Goodin-Smith’s story about the ongoing legal battle between the team and the furry green guy’s creators.
Tonight: Jason Vargas opens homestand against the Cubs’ Jose Quintana, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Cole Hamels makes his first career start as a visitor at Citizens Bank Park, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Drew Smyly takes on Yu Darvish in series finale with Cubs, 7:05 p.m.
Friday: Manny Machado and the San Diego Padres come to town, 7:05 p.m.
Sunday: It’s Aaron Nola bobblehead day at the ballpark, 1:05 p.m.
In their first matchup with Cole Hamels since he was dealt away in 2015, the Phillies knocked the lefty out after four innings earlier this season at Wrigley Field. Hamels surrendered three runs on nine hits and two walks and left the game trailing, 4-3. Of course, the Phillies did not win. The Cubs scored four times in the fifth off Cole Irvin — ah, remember when Cole vs. Cole had some real appeal — and the Phillies fell, 8-4.
Bryce Harper and Jean Segura are the only active Phillies with at least 20 at-bats against Hamels. Harper is 9-for-37 (.243) with eight walks and eight strikeouts against Hamels. Segura is 8-for-25 (.320) with a couple of doubles.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.
Question: Who is responsible for player development for the major league players? I thought when a player reaches the majors he knows how to play the game. Explain to me what do they do on the minors. Thank you.
— Robert D., via email
Answer: Thanks for reading and for the question, Robert. It’s a good one.
The Phillies underwent a major change in the development department at the end of last season when Joe Jordan departed as the director of player development. The farm system is now run by Josh Bonifay and assistant general manager Bryan Minniti, and it has become more analytics-based in recent years.