The Texas Rangers acquired Cole Hamels because they needed another Cliff Lee, but Rangers GM Jon Daniels caught the former World Series star at the wrong time.
Hamels is a great guy and a wonderful pro, and his short stay with the Rangers will forever be remembered for what he didn’t do rather than for what he did.
On Thursday, JD struck a deal to send Hamels to the Chicago Cubs in return for minor leaguers, including a Class A ball pitcher; the Cubs have more money than the United States’ government, and the Rangers will still eat a large remaining portion of Hamels’ salary.
The Rangers had no choice on this; Adrian Beltre, you’re next.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Landing Hamels means that Chicago Cubs GM Theo Epstein has acquired the Rangers’ No. 1 and No. 2 pitchers from their American League West team in 2016; the Cubs signed Yu Darvish in the off-season.
Epstein is the man who ended the curses in Boston and Chicago, but even Theo can make a mistake.
A scout told me earlier this week that he thought Hamels, 34, was done.
Hamels is not done. He’s bored. He’s a veteran who has pitched in baseball’s biggest games, and he’s not stupid. He’s like any veteran who, after awhile, just wants to pitch in big games. Or at least relevant games.
The Rangers have not played in a relevant game since 2016. Their next relevant game will not be next season.
Although Hamels pitched some wonderful games for the Rangers, the lasting memories of his time with the team are his appearances against the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2015 and ‘16 American League Division Series.
He had a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning in Game 5 of the ‘15 ALDS, but manager Jeff Banister took him out for reliever Sam Dyson.
For my money, Banister needed to leave his big chief in the game. I asked Banister about that later and he felt it was the right decision, even if reliever Sam Dyson served up a home run to Jose Bautista that still has not landed.
The next year, in Game 1 of the ‘16 ALDS in Arlington, Hamels threw a nice batting practice session against the Jays; he allowed six earned runs in 3 1/3 innings in a 10-1 loss.
JD’s decision to acquire Hamels and reliever Jake Diekman at the deadline in 2015 in exchange for starter Matt Harrison, catcher Jorge Alfaro, outfielder Nick Williams and pitchers Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff and Alec Asher was the right call.
JD’s assessment that the team was close and just needed another piece was right, and Hamels pushed them to a division title.
It was not that much different when JD acquired Cliff Lee in 2010; the difference was Lee was the reason the Rangers won a playoff series whereas Hamels simply could not do it.
What the Rangers gave up for Hamels and Diekman has turned out to be quite the haul.
Alfaro is a nice backup catcher in Philadelphia; Williams is enjoying a second solid season with the Phillies. Thompson has struggled to be an average pitcher but has been a big leaguer for two-plus seasons; Eickhoff has a sub 4.00 ERA in 65 starts in Philadelphia. Asher has bounced around.
In the end, Philly did exactly what it should have done when it dealt Hamels away, and what the Rangers are trying to do now: Rebuild a depleted farm system.
When the Phillies dealt Hamels, they were one of the worst teams in baseball. Today, they are in first place in the National League East.
We know where they are.
Adrian Beltre, you’re next.