In a move that happened awfully fast, the Chicago Cubs acquired left-handed starting pitcher Cole Hamels from the Texas Rangers on Thursday, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News confirmed. The Rangers will receive minor league right-hander Rollie Lacy and a player to be named later for Hamels.
In addition to J.A. Happ, who was traded this morning, Hamels was one of the few quality arms likely to be moved before the July 31st deadline. It has been expected that the Rangers would ultimately make the move to trade him, and that came to fruition today in their deal with the Cubs. Also showing interest in Hamels throughout the month were the Yankees, Mariners, Phillies, Braves and Nationals.
Cubs starters this season have been among the worst in the major leagues, even as the team has built a three-game lead in the NL Central. The group’s 98 ERA- ranks 13th in baseball, yet their peripherals suggest that they are outperforming what would be expected, with a 115 FIP-, ranking 25th in the game. So, while the team’s rotation has not hit regression quite yet, it was clear that an upgrade was necessary to alleviate any future issues.
Hamels himself probably won’t be the savior to a Cubs’ rotation that may need one, but he certainly won’t hurt. The 34-year-old is 5-9 this year with a 4.72 ERA, a 5.20 FIP and a 6.26 DRA. In short, he has not been good.
Some of these poor numbers, however, may be able to be attributed to his extremely drastic home-road splits. Hamels has a 6.41 ERA and a .387 opponents’ wOBA at home. He has a 2.93 ERA and a .308 opponents’ wOBA on the road. That, combined with the fact that Hamels’ velocity has been solid, make it worth the gamble.
Pitching in Globe Life Park has been hard for all pitchers this year, not just Hamels. The park has been a better hitter’s park than every other park in the league, including Coors Field in Denver. Getting Hamels to a more moderate environment — Wrigley still favors hitters, but not by as much — may produce better numbers for the lefty and for the Cubs.
On the financial side of the deal, the Cubs will be sending cash to the Rangers in order to relieve them of Hamels’ large contract. Still on an extension that he signed while with the Phillies, Hamels is making $23.5 million this season. He did have a vesting option for 2019 when originally signing the contract, but he is unlikely to reach the benchmarks necessary to earn the $24 million. Instead, the Cubs will likely have a $20 million team option on Hamels with a $6 million buyout.
The Rangers’ return centers around one prospect, the 23-year-old Lacy. He was the Cubs’ 11th round pick in 2017 and is currently pitching at Class-A Advanced South Bend. Across 80 2⁄3 innings at two Class-A levels, Lacy is 5-2 with a 2.45 ERA and a 94 to 24 strikeout-to-walk ratio. It appears that this trade is mostly about the salary relief for Texas, as the prospect return is probably not as strong as it may have been had they eaten more of the contract.
On the whole, the Cubs once again are gearing up for a postseason run. They knew that they had a weakness in their rotation, and they are banking on a solid rest of the season from Hamels in order to fill that void, especially now that he is leaving a hitter’s paradise out in Arlington.
Devan Fink is a Featured Writer for Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.