Texas Rangers

Hamels knows what it's like to be traded. Why this time is different as Rangers seek suitors

Texas Rangers pitcher Cole Hamels is pictured in this file photo.
Texas Rangers pitcher Cole Hamels is pictured in this file photo. The Associated Press

The first time Cole Hamels found himself on the trading block during a season, he essentially had six months to prepare for an eventual deal.

The Philadelphia Phillies attempted to trade him the winter before the 2015 season, and when he was still around for spring training, the countdown to the July 31 trade deadline started.

In the end, the rumored favorites were overtaken by the below-.500 Texas Rangers, and Hamels helped pitch them to two American League West titles.

The Rangers won't be contending this season, and once again Hamels has been cast as trade bait. Though Hamels knows what it's like to be dealt, this time around isn't the same as three years ago.

His contract is different, and the financial climate in the game is different. Not only does he not know where he will pitch the final two months of the season, he doesn't know where he will pitch in 2019 and for how much.

Until further notice, Hamels is pitching for the Rangers. If he pitches like he did Sunday,and his other start on the homestand, the Rangers might have trouble unloading him.

Hamels allowed seven runs on nine hits in five innings in a 10-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox, who avoided a three-game sweep at Globe Life Park.

Shin-Soo Choo walked in the eighth inning to extend his MLB-best on-base streak to 42 games, but a five-run fifth against Hamels, a rally that started with Adam Engel striking out but reaching on a wild pitch, put the Rangers in too big of a hole.

"I was trying to get some ground balls, and really leaving some pitches out over the plate," Hamels said. "That heart of the order is the ones that do the damage, and you can't let them beat you. And I did. The game plan going into it was to not let those guys beat me."

Hamels can veto trades to 20 teams, and one of them is the perceived front-runner, the New York Yankees. There are ways for clubs to entice him to wave his no-trade protection, and the primary one is to pick up a $20 million club option for 2019.

Add in the rest of his $22.5 million salary for this season, and that's a hefty investment — even for the Yankees — as teams have become increasingly wary of the competitive balance tax, or luxury tax.

Not every contender is far enough below the threshold to take on a significant deal.

The Yankees, who are starved for starting pitching after a season-ending injury to Jordan Montgomery and amid the struggles of Sonny Gray, are believed to be enough below the $197 million cutoff to take on Hamels.

Of course, he's not the only option on the trade market, and others would come at a lower cost. The Yankees aren't the only team who could use starting pitching, and the Rangers could find one of the 10 teams who aren't on Hamels' no-trade list.

Any team would inherit the 2018 salary and a $6 million buyout that comes with the 2019 option. That's an expensive two-month rental, though as in any deal, the finances can be manipulated by the Rangers paying part of the contract.

Hamels knows that he is on the trading block but has no idea where things stand. But the uncertainty has not served as a distraction.

It doesn't for those who have been in the game awhile or have been mentioned in trade talk previously, separating the rumors from the game isn't difficult.

"The really good ones, when they cross those white lines, the rest of the day seems to get shut out," manager Jeff Banister said. "There are things on the outside that swirl around that can distract these guys, and the one thing they get really good at is shutting that out until it's appropriate to think about it. I don't think the whole trade talk is any different."

The only thing distracting Hamels, who allowed four runs in five innings June 26, is when the media asks him about the distractions. He said the question he received about the rumors Sunday was the fourth this season.

"It's not a big deal," he said. "It's out of my control. I have to go out and pitch, and hopefully that's the last time I have to answer that question."

It won't be as July 31 nears. While much is uncertain four weeks out, that isn't.

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