The Chicago Cubs signed right-hander Jason Hammel on Friday in an attempt to shore up their less-than formidable starting rotation. But in deciding what to make of this signing, I thought about that famous image of the young and the old woman in the same visual image.
When you look at the image one way, there’s a fashionable young woman staring off to to one side. But you can just as easily see an old woman with a large nose and a severe look on her face. Will Jason Hammel turn into the stylish young woman, assuming that he returns to his 2012 form that helped lead Baltimore to the playoffs? Or, in another sense, will he pitch well enough in the first half of the season to draw attention from contending clubs, who will then offer a prospect or two for his services? Much like some people made money at flipping condos in the 1990s and early 2000s, some Cubs fans see Jason Hammel as ripe for the flipping.
Or maybe Hammel will end up being the older woman in that image. Perhaps he’ll get hurt and miss some starts. After all, he hasn’t yet thrown 180 innings in a season during his career. Or maybe he just won’t be that good, as his standing as a pitcher with a losing record and an ERA of just under 5 for his career would indicate.
It’s clear to me that Jason Hammel agreed to a one-year, incentive-laden contract in his first year of free agency for a reason. The market for quality starting pitching is very good right now, but whether or not he can be considered as a quality starter is still to be determined. He certainly took a step away from that in the 2013 season.
To me, a more veteran pitcher like Bronson Arroyo would have been a better play, given that he wins more than he loses, and he still may have something left at age 37. But the team decided to go younger and cheaper, and Jason Hammel is the result.
“Wait ’til next year” sounds strange in January, but that’s where we’re at with the Cubs right now.