Chicago Cubs: Cole Hamels has earned his spot on Cubs’ rotation next season

Chicago Cubs (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Chicago Cubs (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs’ starter Cole Hamels continues to prove that he was worth the investment as a trade deadline acquisition.

Not many outside of the Chicago Cubs organization and Cubs fans foresaw star pitcher Cole Hamels returning to his all-star form. Thus far, Hamels has been a revelation for the Cubs. Hamels has been so good in a Cubs uniform that it would be a stunning move if he does not return to the Cubs’ starting rotation next season.

Hamels was perceived as a risk when the Cubs obtained him via a trade with the Texas Rangers near the end of the July 31 non-waiver deadline. The Cubs did not give up top-tier prospects for Hamels, nevertheless, his acquisition offered little to no promises regarding a great return.

Armed with a bloated ERA of 4.72 and a WAR of 1.2, Hamels arrived on the Cubs as a pitcher who can eat innings. Contractually, Hamels carried a staggering number as well, with the Cubs being on the hook for $14 million for the duration of this season. Having Hamels puts the Cubs dangerously in the vicinity of the MLB luxury tax.

If Hamels was the same pitcher who was a perennial Cy Young candidate as in season’s prior flirting with the luxury tax is a no-brainer for a team with World Series intentions. It has been a few seasons since Hamels has performed that way. That is until the Cubs acquired him.

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The Cy Young version of Hamels returned once he took the mound for the Cubs and the consistency has been maintained for the past six weeks. Hamels has done more than enough already to have earned a spot in the Cubs’ starting rotation next season. The question becomes how will the Cubs retain him.

Since joining the Cubs each of Hamels’ statistical numbers has risen to the levels of his prime years. He is 4-0, with an ERA of 1.73 and a WAR of 2.7.

Most importantly, Hamels has showcased an astute command of his pitches, as evidenced by his near 3-to-1 strikeout versus walks ratio. Pitching with the Cubs has become one of the best stretches of Hamels’ career to date.

A conundrum has now been created on the Cubs due to Hamels’ contractual status for next season.

The Cubs have the rights to pick up Hamels’ $20 million option for next season. If he continues to perform the way that he has, he would be a bargain for the Cubs. However, there are a couple of roadblocks standing in the way of that.

Both Tyler Chatwood and Yu Darvish will be entering the second season of their Cubs’ contracts. Their injury-plagued seasons have been overlooked due to their ineffectiveness pitching in a Cubs’ uniform.

Kyle Hendricks must get paid eventually. Also, the Cubs have to add a table-setter atop their lineup. Many of the Cubs’ struggles on offense has plenty to do with the fact that there is not a true leadoff hitter on the roster. Some will argue that most teams do not employ a traditional leadoff man, however, the majority of those teams are not World Series contenders.

Hamels has done his part for forcing the Cubs’ hand here. If he continues his pace throughout the remainder of the season and the playoffs the Cubs will not have a choice but to retain him. A potential Cubs’ starting rotation of Hamels, Hendricks, Darvish, Jon Lester, and Jose Quintana is a lethal one on paper.

The prospects of that rotation are too much for the Cubs to refuse. Especially given how Hamels has pitched thus far. Some may argue that Hamels has saved the Cubs season.