All the talk this offseason should and will be centered around Gerrit Cole. Cole, a free agent, is the best pitcher in the world and the Yankees will surely be engaged on him.
Despite the Cole circus, the Yankees should also consider signing Cole Hamels. (Disclaimer: Duh, I would rather have Gerrit Cole than Cole Hamels. I am going into this offseason with the assumption that the Yankees are not going to go balls to the wall to get the best talent they can, but rather look for value. I would legitimately sleep outside all winter if it meant getting Gerrit Cole.)
Hamels and the Yankees are familiar with each other. Back in 2009, the Yankees beat Hamels in Game 3 of the World Series. Additionally, Brian Cashman talked to the Phillies about a potential trade for Hamels at the 2015 deadline. The Phillies asked for Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez in return. That deal obviously would’ve been catastrophic at the time, but now all Hamels will cost is money.
Fast forward to 2020, and Hamels to the Yankees seems logical on the surface. Hamels is familiar with the high-pressure east coast environment, having pitched in many big games for the Phillies between 2008 and 2011. He has a World Series MVP and can provide solid leadership for younger pitchers. This is significant considering the retirement of CC Sabathia.
Like Sabathia, Hamels has remained effective in his later years by being resourceful. He recently added a slider to his arsenal, which has paid dividends. He has kept his ERA under four each of the past two years, and struck out 9.1 batters per nine innings last season, which was actually better than his career average of 8.5. As a left-hander, Hamels would fit beautifully in Yankee Stadium.
With all of the clamoring for top-line starting pitching, it’s important to take a step back. At the very least, the Yankees need starters that can give them innings. The reason the bullpen was burned out in Game 6 of the ALCS was that there were way too many three and four inning starts. Hamels has topped the 200 inning mark eight times in his career, most recently in 2016. While these days seems far in the past, he did throw 190 innings in 2018, so expecting between 175 and 200 innings for 2020 isn’t unreasonable.
One of the main drawbacks with Hamels is his age. He will be 36 on opening day, and is obviously no spring chicken. Fans may question this idea by pointing to J.A. Happ. Like Hamels, Happ is an aging lefty who was not at the top of his market during his free agent class. Yes, Happ hasn’t worked out, but these two aren’t comparable. Cole Hamels is a four-time All Star and a World Series MVP who has received Cy Young votes. Happ has been a slightly above average pitcher for the majority of his career. He has one All Star selection due to the Blue Jays needing a mandatory representative in 2018. Hamels has been responsible for about 60 wins above replacement over his career while Happ comes in around 21. (Baseball Reference.)
Hamels is a big-game pitcher with postseason experience. He has shown the ability to extend his career by updating his pitch arsenal, and this has allowed him to remain effective to date. With Sabathia retiring, he could take on a mentorship role with younger pitchers. The Yankees desperately need innings from their starters, and Hamels should be able to give them around 175 as four or five starter.