Cole Hamels is returning to the National League East, but it will not be with the Phillies.
Hamels signed a one-year, $18 million contract Wednesday to join the Braves, the team announced. The Phillies, as they focus this offseason on starting pitching, were expected to be a suitor for Hamels, who still owns a home in Delaware County. Instead, he landed with a rival.
The left-hander said the Braves “were one of six teams I was really following and really rooting for“ in free agency. He said Alex Anthopoulos, the Braves general manager, was the first to initiate serious discussions.
“I reward the first team that actually does what they say they’re doing,“ Hamels said, adding that when a financial agreement was reached, “Boom, we were there, and it was going to happen.“
Hamels, who had a 3.81 ERA last season in 27 starts with the Cubs, would have fit nicely in the Phillies rotation. Hamels, who will turn 36 this month, would have come without the risk of a long-term guarantee. And it would have allowed the Phillies to add a top-notch starter such as Zack Wheeler, who agreed to a five-year, $118 million contract with the club Wednesday, a source confirmed. The Athletic was the first to report the deal.
The Phillies will likely add another pitcher to complete a rotation headed by Aaron Nola and including Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez, or Nick Pivetta.
The Braves won 97 games last season en route to capturing their second-straight division title. They’ve been active early in the offseason, adding Hamels, relievers Will Smith and Darren O’Day, and catcher Travis d’Arnaud, and bringing back reliever Chris Martin, outfielder Nick Markakis, and catcher Tyler Flowers.
Hamels will join a rotation that features Mike Soroka, Mike Foltynewicz, and Max Fried. The Braves had been linked to free agent Madison Bumgarner, whose price has likely risen thanks to Hamels’ deal.
The Cubs acquired Hamels before the 2018 trade deadline, after the Phillies passed on him. He was excellent for the Cubs that season, after leaving Texas’ hitter-friendly ballpark, posting a 2.36 ERA in 12 starts. Last season, Hamels started strong but strained his oblique in June and was never the same after returning a month later from the injured list.
Hamels was a free agent for the first time in his career. In May, he said that he was open to returning to the Phillies, the team he pitched to a World Series title in 2008. Instead, he will pitch for the team that the Phillies have failed to chase down in each of the last two seasons.