Is Cole Hamels worth a six-year, $144 million deal?

David Brown
Big League Stew

The Philadelphia Phillies have agreed to give Cole Hamels so much money that he won't even bother to file for the expected bonanza that comes with free agency. For a sum of $144 million over six seasons, Hamels becomes the second-richest pitcher in major-league history after CC Sabathia of the Yankees. Hamels' deal, first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, will be made official Wednesday at an afternoon press conference in Philly.

At $24 million a season starting in 2013, Hamels will make as much annually as teammate Cliff Lee, who is signed through 2015.  When you include Roy Halladay, who is signed for two more years at $20 million per, it gives the Phillies three $20 million-plus starting pitchers — and there are only five starting pitcher slots.

So is Hamels worth it?

If you compare Hamels to Sabathia, he's worth it. Though Hamels has never won a Cy Young (Sabathia won in 2007), both pitchers have the same career-adjusted ERA — 125. The same goes for Hamels and Lee. Lee's career ERA+ is 116, dragged down a bit by two horrendous seasons with the Indians that came before the most dominant period of his career. Lee's best seasons came at ages 29 and 32; Hamels turns 29 in December. Hamels has yet to win an ERA title (Lee did in 2008) and has never led the league in shutouts or complete games. But he certainly appears capable.

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Matt Cain's adjusted ERA is 124, he's a year younger than Hamels and has made 23 more starts over his career. He recently signed a deal through 2018 that is worth about $21 million a season. That's also in the Hamels ballpark.

Halladay, signed through 2013 with a vesting option for 2014, has won two Cy Young Awards and nearly had two or three more. He's led the league in complete games seven times, and in strikeout-to-walk ratio five times, and his career-adjusted ERA is 136. But he's also 35 years old and, probably, beginning the downside of his career.

And if you compare Hamels to other expensive pitchers, he starts to look even better.

So, Hamels' deal is obviously near the top of the line. But it's not out of line. And it brings the Phillies to another question: Will they decide to trade another of their expensive players — Hunter Pence or even Lee — in order to better afford Hamels in the future?

In answering their biggest question, the Phillies may have created a few others.

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