Cole Hamels Deserves Big Payday, and Phillies Should Be Team to Give It to Him

Cole Hamels Deserves Big Payday, and Phillies Should Be Team to Give It to HimPhillies fans know what they're getting from Cole Hamels.

Usually, it's an ERA around 3.00 and a couple of strong outings in the postseason. And it's that consistency that makes him so valuable to the Phillies — as well as the host of teams who would like to add him to their rotation before the July 31 trading deadline.

But the Phillies aren't thinking trade right now, despite being 11 games back of the second wild card spot in the National League. Instead, they're trying to lock up Hamels long-term and are willing to offer the lefty $130 million over six years to keep him in Philadelphia, according to CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman.

That's the right decision, even though Hamels would fetch a nice package of prospects if the Phillies were to entertain trade offers.

Aside from a hiccup in 2009, when he went 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA, Hamels has been arguably the most consistent pitcher of the past five years outside of teammate Roy Halladay. Disregarding 2009, he has won between 11 and 14 games in every season since 2008 — including this one — with an ERA between 2.79 and 3.09 each year. He also boasts career averages of 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings and a 3.8 strikeout-to-walk ratio, both of which rank him near the top of the majors in that span.

His numbers in the postseason are even better. Again disregarding 2009, Hamels is 6-2 with a 1.72 ERA in nine postseason starts. He collected NLCS and World Series MVP honors in 2008 as the Phillies captured their first title since 1980.

He's also extremely durable, having started at least 32 games in each of the past four seasons, a number he is on pace to match again in 2012. Alhough $130 million is a hefty price to pay, Hamels has proven that he is worth it. Hamels' relative youth means that he would be 34 by the end of the contract — certainly not old for a pitcher.

Furthermore, the amount the Phillies are offering is fairly close to the five-year, $112.5 million extension (with a $21 million sixth-year option) that Matt Cain signed with the Giants in April. Cain is just one year younger than Hamels and the pair's numbers are pretty similar, so it makes sense that Philadelphia would offer a similar per-year figure to what Cain got from the Giants.

Although Hamels has been listed as one of the biggest names who may be dealt at the deadline, it doesn't appear that the Phillies have any interest in that option, and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. really shouldn't be thinking of trading any of his major pieces just because Philly is out of contention this season. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have missed a combined 163 games, and Roy Halladay just returned after missing a month and a half with a shoulder injury. With those key contributors absent, it's no surprise that the Phillies have dropped off.

At its core, this is still the same team that has won the last five NL East titles and that led MLB with 102 wins last season. The offense may be declining, but with Halladay, Hamels and Cliff Lee atop the rotation, it doesn't need to be great for the Phillies to contend for a World Series title.

Of course, signing Hamels would be a major hit to the team's payroll — between Halladay, Hamels and Lee, Philly would have more than $66 million tied up among three players — but owner David Montgomery has always been willing to spend, and Philadelphia ranks second in payroll in 2012 at $175 million, behind only the Yankees.

In the end, an extension is probably in the best interests of both parties. Hamels gets paid, and the Phillies are able to continue fielding a team built around three of the game's best pitchers.

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