WASHINGTON - Cole Hamels #35 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Cole Hamels is a pending free agent, but the Phillies aren't going to just let him go, right? Right?
Cole Hamels has a nickname. You might not know about it because it's not as catchy as "The Splendid Splinter" (Ted Williams), "Dr. K" (Dwight Gooden), or "Whooooooops" (Jason Bay), but he has one. It's "Hollywood." As in, Hollywood Cole Hamels.
It's an odd nickname, though its origin is a mystery. Except for, you know, things like that picture. It might also have to do with his Southern California roots, and a return to his home might be something he's thinking about. The free-agent-to-be isn't close to an extension with the Phillies, and the popular guess as to his destination is the Los Angeles Dodgers, who will presumably have a new owner with all sorts of loot.
The Phillies are still trying, of course. Section 3.51 of the Internet Baseball Discussion Code states that fans are required to argue that every young prospect should be signed to a Evan Longoria/Matt Moore contract before they appear in a dozen games, but in the fine print of that section, there's also a clause that requires fans to suggest every pitcher with a few All-Star appearances should sign a Jered Weaver contract before they reach free agency. It's a nice, and required, thought.
But not so fast:
But John Boggs, Hamels' agent, on Tuesday called the Weaver deal a "non-starter" in negotiations.
"It would be natural to look at that as a comparison," Boggs said. "Jered signed for his own personal reasons -- and I applaud him for that -- but it doesn't necessarily mean we're going to follow the same standard. Everybody is different. For Jered to sign there, it doesn't mean that's the template we're going to follow."
Hamels will get a huge deal. It could come from the Phillies. It could come from the Dodgers. The Marlins will still have an open line of credit, most likely. There will be teams lining up around the block to give him a Barry Zito deal, which is something that should sound as scary as it does, even if the comparison is unfair.
The question of the year, then, is will this be the one long-term deal that the Phillies don't give out? Really? This is the one that they can't do. After extending Ryan Howard long before he was a free agent; after spending over $100 million on an ace to pair with the other ace that they just spent $100 million on; after retaining their mid-30s shortstop; after pulling back the contract they supposedly offered Ryan Madson because they wanted to offer a more expensive one to Jonathan Papelbon, this is the contract that makes them back away from the table, not even accepting a wafer-thin mint?
If that's the case, if there are already internal discussions in Philadelphia about a Hamels deal being too much of a burden, the Papelbon contact will have already been a disaster. There were teams trading cheap closers (Oakland, Houston) and short-term stopgaps (Huston Street). Other closers signed for fewer years. The closer they wanted in the first place is guaranteed about $40 million less than Papelbon will get. To pay boutique prices for a closer, only to turn around and lose Cole Hamels, would seem bizarre, if not negligent.
But that can't be the Phillies' plan. Every move, every roster decision over the past three years has to have been with the understanding that the move wouldn't affect plans to re-sign Hamels. And the only thing that can prevent Hamels from returning is Hamels not wanting to return. Maybe after a World Series win and a couple of pennants, Hamels feels like Captain Bern Hembrook did about the moon:
I walked on the moon. Did a push-up, ate an egg on it ... What else can you do with it?
Hamels wanting change for the sake of change is the only thing standing between him and the Phillies. Because they can't seriously stop handing out the long-term deals the second Hamels approaches free agency. I mean, they just can't.