He considered himself one of baseball's elite pitchers -- the rare guy a team wants on the mound in Game 7 of the World Series -- and as far back as last season, it became clear he wanted to be paid like one. His dreams became reality Wednesday, when the Phillies announced they had signed Hamels to a six-year, $144 million contract extension, ending speculation he could be traded before Tuesday's Trade Deadline while adding another enormous contract to the organization's payroll.
It is the second-largest contract for a pitcher in baseball history, behind the Yankees' C.C. Sabathia.
It is the largest contract in Philadelphia sports history.
"I wanted to give the Phillies every opportunity," Hamels said. "It's very hard to leave a place you've had so many great memories and have been able to enjoy so much good, and you know there's so much more good to come. You don't want to miss it, you don't want to not be a part of it. I know the Phillies, the organization is always going to do a good job of going out to win. We have great players here. So you don't want to leave that, stray away, see them win and not be a part of it.
"I understand free agency is great, the opportunities that are out there, the unknown. But I really do feel this is the place I call home and the place I want to call home for a really long time. I grew up watching Tony Gwynn play and he made San Diego his home for his entire career. And that's ultimately what I want in Philadelphia."
The deal will pay him $19.5 million next season and $22.5 million each season from 2014-18. The deal includes a $6 million signing bonus, plus a $20 million club option or a $24 million vesting option for 2019, when Hamels will be 35. The option vests automatically if three conditions are met: He does not finish the 2018 on the disabled list with a left shoulder or left elbow injury, he pitches 200 innings in 2018 and 400 innings in 2017-18. If the option does not vest or the Phillies decline to pick up the option, Hamels receives a $6 million buyout.
"Money has never been an issue or the reason I get on that mound every day to try to win ballgames," Hamels said. "I know it comes with it, but ultimately I play because I purely enjoy the game, I want to win. And I feel this is the best opportunity to win a championship again."
"You'd play for free?" Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. joked. "Now, all of a sudden I'm very uncomfortable."
"I learned in economics there's no such thing as a free lunch," Hamels countered.
The deal is just another example of how things happen when both parties want them to happen. It also shows just how much a deadline can foster a deal.
There appeared to be very little progress for a long time, although Amaro said he had been talking with Hamels' agent, John Boggs, for more than a year. But with the July 31 Trade Deadline looming, things picked up considerably in the last seven to 10 days with the Phillies and Boggs exchanging offers and proposals.
The discussions only got Hamels' attention when the Phillies finally guaranteed a sixth year. That absolutely needed to happen for Hamels to forego free agency in a couple months.
But as the parties continued to talk, Hamels pitched Saturday against the San Francisco Giants. As he walked off the field for what could have been his final home start in a Phillies uniform, fans stood and cheered.
"It really showed me something," Hamels said.
But things truly got serious on Tuesday.
"It really built to a head," Boggs said. "That's why I say up to that point we had conversations, but there were never something that was actually reduced to paper. Yesterday was really the final 'Are we there? Are we not?' Actually, the Phillies showed they were trying to do the best they could possibly do."
Hamels agreed to the deal, pending a physical. He got an MRI on Tuesday evening and Boggs hopped on a flight from San Diego to Philadelphia.
It is a long deal for an organization with plenty of long deals. Next season, the Phillies have $123.5 million committed in salary to Cliff Lee ($25 million), Roy Halladay ($20 million), Ryan Howard ($20 million), Hamels ($19.5 million), Chase Utley ($15 million), Jonathan Papelbon ($13 million) and Jimmy Rollins ($11 million).
Amaro said he spoke with Hamels about the future of the organization before he signed. The Phillies have been reluctant to significantly cross the $178 million luxury tax threshold, and there are indications they could try to shed some high-priced talent (Lee and Hunter Pence, who could make $14 million in salary arbitration next season, are possibilities) before Tuesday's Trade Deadline or in the offseason to ensure that.
"We did have a discussion about it," Amaro said. "We talked about it. We did discuss the fact, the magnitude of the contract, would it hinder us from doing some other things? In some cases it might, but again as I've told him, our goal remains the same, to try to put pieces of the puzzle around these core players to make sure we're a championship caliber club."
Phillies president David Montgomery hinted there might be a willingness to go above and beyond that luxury tax threshold in the future.
"We pay attention to it," he said. "We do know the ramifications are such it puts you in a position of unproductive payroll. But we may very well need to do that in order to do the right things on the field."
The Phillies understand the tremendous risks in signing a pitcher to a six-year contract. This is an organization that just a few years ago was reluctant to go more than three guaranteed years for a pitcher.
But Hamels isn't an ordinary pitcher. He's young. He's talented. He's won.
He is theirs through 2018.
"Cole grew up with us," Amaro said. "He's still growing. He's a special player. He's someone who's grown up in our organization. We think he's one of the elite left-handers in the game. We're happy to have gotten it done. We hope to give ourselves a chance, and we think this is the best way to give ourselves a chance to bring home another championship here in Philadelphia, with Cole than without him. And we've expressed that to him pretty explicitly."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.