Gil LeBreton

For Rangers, ace pitcher Hamels a bet who’s worth waiting for

Cole Hamels will be under the Rangers’ club control with a team option through 2019 and his statistics are among the best.
Cole Hamels will be under the Rangers’ club control with a team option through 2019 and his statistics are among the best. AP

Having waited most of their 44 seasons for a pitcher like Cole Hamels, the Texas Rangers had to be content to wait a little longer Thursday night.

Maybe Hamels will be in a Rangers uniform and pitch Saturday night. Maybe there will still be i’s to dot and t’s to cross.

Consider it all a metaphor. The dugout waits for lefty Hamels to arrive from the Phillies. And the Texas front office metaphorically waits to see what Hamels’ presence will mean in 2016.

He cost the Rangers a reported pretty price, of course. Six players, three of them among the organization’s top prospects, are a lot to spend on one starting pitcher.

But do the math. Better yet, read the franchise’s history books. Acquiring Cliff Lee five years ago propelled the Rangers to their first World Series.

Lee was worth every penny, even if the club was unable to convince the free-agent pitcher to return the following year.

Hamels, meanwhile, will be under the Rangers’ control with a team option through 2019. His statistical peripherals — his WAR, his FIP (fielding independent pitching), his strikeouts — validate him as one of the top four or five pitchers in the game.

What’s not to like about this deal?

“Trades are necessary,” manager Jeff Banister said before Thursday night’s 7-6 victory over the New York Yankees.

While Banister, by nature, claims a “vested interest” in all of the players in his clubhouse, he acknowledges the business side of this week’s non-waiver trading deadline.

Banister half-winced when I used the word “currency” to describe the role of young prospects in the week’s trade news.

“Nobody’s ‘currency,’” he said. “They’re human beings.”

Banister agreed, though, that a good manager has to weigh both sides of the revolving clubhouse door.

“For me, this is always going to be about long-term, sustainable, championship runs,” he said. “It’s never going to be about the bright lights, the flash and flame-out. I want sustainable, long-term runs.

“Inside of that, however, with every club — the Cardinals and Giants included — there have been trades. They are necessary.”

From the largesse about to be sent to Philadelphia, young catcher Jorge Alfaro seems like the weightiest dice roll. Only 22 years old, Alfaro’s cameo appearances in spring training suggested he had the body and the demeanor to be the Rangers’ starting catcher for the next 10 years — if he can only stay healthy.

Oh, well.

Outfielder Nick Williams, only 21, was enjoying a breakout season in Frisco — a .299 average and .836 OPS — before this week’s trade reports. But Williams is left-handed in an organization that overflows with left-handed-hitting outfielders.

The club simply has to find a solid, right-handed power hitter to plug into its lineup, whether it’s in the outfield or at DH. Justin Upton, whom the Rangers coveted at the winter meetings in 2012, would have been a nice fit. A guy named Nelson Cruz would have been even better.

General manager Jon Daniels was able to hang on to prized prospects Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara, who both bat left-handed.

It’s what Banister had indirectly acknowledged, that even a World Series team can’t keep all of its prospects.

Daniels didn’t put all of his chips — and his job — on the line with Hamels. The lefty’s pitching WAR numbers from the past five seasons loudly ring with consistency — 5.4, 6.6, 4.6, 4.6, 6.6.

Getting Hamels at a bargain price, when you factor in the reported Phillies’ money and Matt Harrison’s remaining contract, was something any general manager would leap to do.

Daniels’ real wager is that Gallo, Mazara and pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez will make a bigger impact than Alfaro, Williams and Jake Thompson.

For the Rangers, it’s a bet worth waiting for.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

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