Cole Hamels was expected to officially become a member of the Texas Rangers no later than Friday morning after the company that issues insurance policies on player contracts reviewed the trade.
Both teams have cleared each of the eight players medically, and the commissioner’s office has already signed off on the money the Philadelphia Phillies are sending.
It’s just a matter of finishing some paperwork, apparently, and the deal will be done.
So then what?
For starters, the left-hander needs to get to Globe Life Park, where he is expected to arrive Friday. Then, he could slide into the rotation Saturday and take the spot of lefty Matt Harrison, the lone big leaguer going to the National League.
And then what?
That’s up to the Rangers, whose players understand the long-term benefits of the Hamels acquisition but are looking at the standings and pushing toward a playoff berth this season despite entering Friday three games under .500, four games back in the wild-card standings and with five teams between them and the second wild-card spot.
“The first thing I thought was about this year,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “And you start thinking about next year, and it’s a great rotation. For us, right now it’s going to help us, especially in the starting rotation.
“This is a guy that is one of the best right now. The guy’s healthy. We know what he can do. It’s a really big plus for us. We have to keep playing baseball. We know he’s going to help us be a better team, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
The Rangers will get $9.5 million from the Phillies, according to reports, to help pay off the $85.1 million owed to Hamels through 2018, and Philadelphia will pay the balance of the $33 million left on Harrison’s contract through 2017.
Lefty reliever Jake Diekman will come with Hamels from the Phillies. Philadelphia received catcher Jorge Alfaro, outfielder Nick Williams and right-handers Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff and Alec Asher. Alfaro, Williams and Thompson, all at Double A Frisco, were rated as top-10 prospects.
The Rangers continue to have a stockpile of talent in their farm system, though their starting pitching depth took a hit. In 2016, the rotation by May should include Hamels, right-hander Yu Darvish, lefties Derek Holland and Martin Perez, and one from a group of three righties — Nick Martinez, Chi Chi Gonzalez or Anthony Ranaudo.
The 1-2 punch of Hamels and Darvish might prove to be the best in the American League, and the rotation would be one of the best, too. It could get better if the Rangers add from a deep pool of free-agent starters, though the budget is likely stretched to its limit without trading the high-priced Andrus or right-fielder Shin-Soo Choo.
Right-handers Yovani Gallardo, who started Thursday in the Rangers’ 7-6 victory over the New York Yankees, and Colby Lewis are also free agents. Gallardo said that he is looking forward to testing the market, and Lewis would like to return.
After seeing his buddy Harrison traded, Lewis was again reminded that baseball is a business, and the Rangers might not want to do business with him after the season even though he leads the team in wins (11), strikeouts (101) and innings (132 1/3) and tops the rotation with a 1.19 WHIP (walks/hits per innings pitched).
The front office and Lewis have had a strong bond since he was brought back to the organization in 2010, but even that and a strong 2015 might not be enough to bring Lewis back.
“It’s a business,” said Lewis, who turns 36 on Sunday. “You do develop relationships and trust in aspect of everyday life. They still have to do their jobs. I’d like to be back here next year. It depends on which direction they want to go.”
Hamels, 31, tossed a no-hitter in his last start and is 6-7 with a 3.62 ERA after 20 starts. He his seeking his sixth consecutive season with 200 innings, needing 71 1/3 innings to get there.
Though he has never won a Cy Young award and had been to only three All-Star games in 10 seasons, Hamels was the MVP of the AL Championship Series and World Series in 2008.
That’s where the Rangers want to go, even this year, and will have Hamels to help them get there through at least 2018.
“It makes us better,” outfielder Josh Hamilton said. “At the same time, we still have to play defense and hit. You hate losing guys. Harry’s going to be missed tremendously. You hope the guys coming in step up and fit right in, and we just keep right rolling. We’re excited to get him.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760