After months of speculation, the Philadelphia Phillies finally got their man locked up for the better part of the next decade. Cole Hamels agreed to a six-year, $144 million contract. The contract is the second-most lucrative contract given to any pitcher in MLB history.
Hamels was viewed by the Phillies as a must-keep, which is why they broke their rule of not offering any pitcher a long-term deal. For his part, Hamels was extremely professional during the negotiations. He acknowledged the fact he grew up in San Diego idolizing Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, and admired the fact he played his entire career with one team. Cole most likely will have one more contract in his career after this one, so the chances of him being a lifetime Phillie is still up in the air, but for now, it seems like he may get his wish.
With Hamels now signed until 2019, the Phillies must try to find little pieces to fill in where there are obvious needs. The Phillies are giving Hamels and Cliff Lee $24 million per season each, and Roy Halladay makes $20 million per season for the next two years, which puts the Phillies in a very interesting situation. They are now paying $68 million for three players who are on the field for them every fifth day.
So, where do they find some talent to replace their current aging everyday players? Obviously, the major needs are third base and left field. Third baseman Placido Polanco has been injured a majority of the past three seasons, and it sadly appears he is nearing the end of his career. It is clear that the Ty Wiggingtons of the baseball world are not going to cut it for the Phils, so they need to find somebody to fill the void and that somebody must be cheap.
As far as left field goes, there is a few more options. They could continue the Domonic Brown experiment, but he clearly seems more comfortable in center field then left. Re-signing Juan Pierre could be an option. With Shane Victorino most likely gone, it is not hard to imagine Brown getting the chance in center field and a veteran in the Pierre mode filling in at left. Ideally, the Phillies would find a bat with some pop to play left field, but again, the funds may not be available for them to pursue such a player.
The Phillies are in for some major changes next season. They are not going to have a team of misfits. This is not going to be yet another sequel to the movie Major League, but to succeed, the Phillies may need to take chances. They may have to go above the luxury tax threshold. They may even need to find some talent that has been thrown away by other teams, just as they have with Victorino and Jayson Werth. Either way, important changes are going to be made.
In all, the Hamels deal needed to be done, and I am glad that it was, but it still leaves the Phillies with a ton of question marks. They now have their ace of the future; they just need to build around him.