Pitching, not future, Hamels' top concern

Pitching, not future, Hamels' top concern

Pitching, not future, Hamels' top concern
PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies fans had numerous reactions to closer Jonathan Papelbon's $50,000,058 contract, which he signed on Monday.

One of the most relevant: How does this affect Cole Hamels?

The simple answer is the Phils do not make major decisions like this in a vacuum, so it is unlikely that Hamels' future with the organization took a significant hit with Papelbon's deal. Hamels made $9.5 million in 2011 and is eligible for salary arbitration one final time before he can become a free agent following the '12 season. The Phillies have expressed interest in signing Hamels to a multiyear contract extension but said they have had no serious negotiations with the left-hander yet.

Hamels on Tuesday night was at the Four Seasons in Center City, where manager Charlie Manuel was named the Magee Rehabilitation Hospital's 2011 Humanitarian of the Year. If Hamels is eager to get a deal done, he did not sound like it.

"It's not really on my mind because I'm still locked in with the team, which I'm happy about," Hamels said. "It'll work its way out. I'm just going to go out there and focus on pitching. I feel like I have a really good agent, [John Boggs]. I hope he has a good relationship with [general manager] Ruben [Amaro Jr.] and they'll be able to work well together."

The most comparable pitcher to Hamels is Angels ace Jered Weaver, who signed a five-year, $85 million contract extension during this past season. But the longer Hamels isn't locked up and the better he pitches in 2012, the more likely his price is to go up.

Hamels could be looking for $100 million or more.

Upon trading for Johan Santana, the New York Mets signed the lefty to a $137.5 million contract extension in February 2008, nine months before he would have become a free agent. The nine-month mark for Hamels is February 2012. But the notable difference is that Santana was a two-time American League Cy Young Award winner at the time.

So the question becomes how far the Phillies are willing to go. They have already committed $89.5 million in 2013 to Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Chase Utley and Papelbon. That doesn't include a raise to Hunter Pence, who will be eligible for salary arbitration again.

The Phis will have to decide how many mega-multiyear contracts they want to handle.

"My whole philosophy is: I don't fear trying to sign something quickly because of the fear of failure or getting injured," Hamels said. "I've had a serious injury. I broke my arm in high school, and they said I would never throw again. I overcame that, so I think I can overcome anything. I'll never have regrets or 'what ifs.' I just know if I can play and do a really good job, it'll take care of itself."

Hamels went 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA this past season. In 216 innings, he allowed 169 hits, 67 earned runs and 44 walks. He struck out 194 and ranked second in the NL in WHIP (0.99), second in opponents' average (.214), third in opponents' OPS (.596), fifth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.41), sixth in ERA and 10th in strikeouts.

Hamels also ranked 27th out of 50 qualifying pitchers in run support average (4.21), which has been the story of his career. From 2008-11, Hamels ranked 41st out of 60 qualifying pitchers in that category, which has cost him more than a handful of wins over the years.

Hamels, who will turn 28 next month, had loose bodies removed from his left elbow on Oct. 14 and had an inguinal hernia repaired a week later. He kept those problems quiet during the season.

"I didn't want to make excuses," Hamels said. "It wasn't comfortable. It's not like I felt in 2010, when I went out there and felt I could blow everything out of the water. I just felt good that year. This year, I had days it wasn't good. Both things bothered me. The elbow would swell up, but everything was manageable. This was the first year I actually had to manage something like this."

Hamels is already throwing from 90 feet and said he will be ready to go for the beginning of Spring Training.

"I'll probably be throwing bullpen [sessions] by the end of December, just like I would normally," Hamels said.

And who knows? Maybe in January, once the Phillies find a shortstop and maybe another bat, they will turn their attention to Hamels. In recent seasons, the club signed Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton and Ryan Madson to contract extensions in January.

But this deal figures to be trickier. There is much more money on the line.

"You don't really think the grass is greener on the other side," Hamels said. "This is the organization I've come up with. We're winning. Why would you ever want to leave? You want to be on a winning team, and the team wants to win.

"We have a house here. It's very enjoyable. It's a great division -- good traveling within the division. Sometimes there are the comforts that you really get used to, and you just really go from there."