News broke on Wednesday that the Cubs had put in a claim on Phillies starter Cole Hamels after Philadelphia put him on revocable waivers. Now, if the Cubs did put a claim in on Hamels, that doesn’t mean that Hamels will be in a Cubs uniform by the end of the week.
But whether or not the Cubs get Hamels is secondary in my mind. What stands out to me about this move is what it means for the Cubs in 2015.
If you aren’t familiar with revocable waivers in August, it’s not that complicated a process to understand. Teams will put players on waivers in August, and when I say players, I mean just about every damned player will be put on waiver. Once a player is placed on waivers the other MLB teams have a chance to claim that player, with the worst team in the respective league (in the Hamels case, since Philly is in the National League, the National League teams get first dibs) getting the first chance and so on and so forth. Should the player clear the first league the process starts over in the next league.
Because the Cubs have the second worst record in the National League, they were second in line after Colorado before putting in their claim.
Now once you put in a claim on a player, the team that placed him on waivers has a couple of options. Most of the time they’ll try to work out a trade for the player, but they also have the option to just let the player go.
Philadelphia isn’t just going to let Hamels go to the Cubs without compensation, but it could if it wanted to — though Hamels would have to approve the move due to his no-trade clause — and then the Cubs would have to assume the rest of his deal.
Now, it’s possible that the Cubs simply put a claim in on Hamels in order to block another National League team from getting him. Teams do that from time to time, but they run the risk of being awarded that player whether they really wanted him or not. There were rumblings that this is what happened to the White Sox in 2009 when they claimed Alex Rios. Some said the Sox were just trying to keep the Tigers from getting the chance to claim him and the Blue Jays responded by saying “he’s yours!” and dumping the rest of his contract on the Sox.
Well, I don’t see why the Cubs would have any reason to block another team from getting Hamels, seeing as how they’re not exactly in contention for anything this season. No, the Cubs put a bid in on Hamels because they’re interested in acquiring Cole Hamels, and that’s a good indication of the team’s plans this winter heading into 2015.
In recent weeks we’ve seen the arrivals of Arismendy Alcantara and now Javier Baez. The kids we’ve long been hearing about are finally making their way to Chicago. We’ve also heard that the Cubs could be looking to spend on the free agent market this winter, and this Hamels move backs up those claims.
What I haven’t mentioned in this post yet is Hamels’ contract. The reason the Phillies might be willing to part ways with Hamels isn’t because of his performance, it’s because the Phillies have an aging roster full of huge contracts. Hamels is 30 years old and owed $90 million over the next four seasons ($22.5 per), with a $20 million option for the 2019 season.
This means that the Cubs put in a claim on a player that they would have to pay at least $90 million on.
To me this is the clearest sign we’ve seen that the Cubs plan to start winning next season. Maybe not winning a World Series, but to at least contend for a playoff spot.
All that said, I still don’t expect the Cubs and Phillies to work out a deal. In order to get Hamels from Philadelphia via a trade the Cubs would have to part with some of those prized prospects. If the Cubs are willing to spend the money on Hamels, they could just as easily spend that money on a Max Scherzer or Jon Lester this winter. Personally I think the Cubs put in this claim with the mindset that if the Phillies just let Hamels go, great! They get an ace to put at the top of the rotation, and it costs them nothing but money, just like a free agent signing in which you aren’t competing with other teams to make the best offer.
Sure, they’ll talk a trade if that’s what Philadelphia wants to do, but I can’t imagine the Cubs are going to part with any major pieces just yet. But as I said, whether or not the Cubs get Cole Hamels here is not what matters.
What matters is that the next step in the plans of Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein seem to be it’s time to start spending money. They’ve spent the last few years in a garage rebuilding an old classic, and in 2015 they’re going to be ready to take it out on the street.
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