Amidst the several free agent moves made on the hot stove recently, one former MLB pitcher has announced that he still wants another shot at taking the mound.
Multiple reports emerged on Wednesday afternoon that Cole Hamels still has ambitions of pitching in the MLB, per his agent, John Boggs.
Hamels is a four-time All-Star, as well as a four-time top-8 finisher in Cy Young voting. His resume is stacked with postseason accomplishments, pitching in 17 playoff games, starting 16 of them, as well as being the MVP of the 2008 NLCS and the 2008 World Series.
Hamels owns a career 3.43 ERA, 2,560 strikeouts, and a .572 winning percentage. While his tenure with the Phillies highlights his career, Blue Jays fans may know Hamels well from his time with the Texas Rangers. He pitched against Toronto in both ALDS match-ups in ’15 and ’16.
Hamels hasn’t seen big league action since the COVID-shortened 2020 season with the Atlanta Braves. He only pitched 3.1 innings that year, as shoulder fatigue and triceps tendonitis kept him on the injured list for most of the season. The Dodgers signed him as a free agent in 2021, but injuries also kept him from seeing any action.
Hamels is now 38 years old, so the likelihood of Hamels being inked to a substantial contract are almost irrational. If he does sign with a team, he would be in the top 10 of the oldest pitchers still around.
So, from a Blue Jays standpoint, would they be interested at all? I’d say the answer to that is no, since the front office has shown that they are big on young, controllable players. The pitchers that they have signed to long-term contracts have recent success in the bigs (see Kevin Gausman and Jose Berrios). The oldest players on the Blue Jays roster currently are Hyun-Jin Ryu and Anthony Bass, who are both 35 years old.
But, while it’s highly unlikely, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Blue Jays at least checked in on Hamels. Toronto has taken fliers on multiple veterans (older vets, at that) in the past couple of years across a couple of different levels.
For example, Ben Revere (2019) and Dexter Fowler (2022) were both signed to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training during the Shapiro-Atkins era. Both were on the latter half of their careers; Revere, had he been promoted to Toronto, could’ve served as a veteran leader on the youthful 2019 squad. Fowler was a switch-hitting bat that, at best, could’ve provided outfield depth (as well as a lefty bat) for the 2022 lineup.
Finally, Sergio Romo, a former impactful closer, was claimed off of waivers in 2022. All three were veterans, and all three had playoff experience/success, as Fowler and Romo both own World Series rings. Maybe I’m missing a few, but you get the idea.
Sure, none of the above players made a significant contribution to the Toronto Blue Jays at all, and you could completely argue that those names aren’t on the same pedestal as Hamels. But, the Blue Jays didn’t need to break the bank on any of them. Two of them were minor league contracts, with the other one being a waiver claim. Shapiro and Atkins have clearly shown that they’re comfortable taking a low-risk chance on formerly successful veterans.
Keegan Matheson also reported earlier this week that Ross Atkins has been exploring free agents/trade targets with “playoff potential”. Per the aforementioned postseason numbers, Hamels has certainly proven himself in the playoffs.
Obviously, this is all just silly speculation. Maybe a team is willing to sign Hamels to a major league deal, maybe his age scares some teams off, or maybe someone grabs him on a minor league deal. Regardless, don’t be surprised if the Blue Jays at least sniff around.