Last summer when the Phillies signed starter Cole Hamels to a six year, $144 million contract, the deal was a massive deal for a pitcher who was an ace still at the top of his game. Two recent signings have certainly helped the Phillies deal look good. Last week, the Los Angeles Dodgers gave their ace Clayton Kershaw a seven-year, $215 million contract. Today, the New York Yankees gave Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka a seven-year, $155 million deal, which amounts to $175 million spent total when you add the $20 million posting fee.
At the time, some considered the Hamels signing an "overpay". Rob Cunningham of In Your Face Media wrote:
Even though he has a ring, Hamels has never finished above fifth in voting for the Cy Young. That’s fifth in the National League, not all of baseball. He doesn’t have stuff or numbers that amaze you. He doesn’t hit 100 with his fastball. He doesn’t have a filthy 12-6 curve that falls off the table. He does have one of the best changeups in the game, but he’s one of those under-the-radar guys that does his thing and no one really notices.
Would he have gotten that contract on the free agent market? Probably not.
Tanaka put up an impressive 24-0 record and 1.27 ERA in Japan, but we have seen Japanese players fail to translate their success in Japan to the Major Leagues (Kei Igawa, anyone?). One can reasonably conclude that if the Yankees were willing to pay $25 million a season for a asomewhat unproven commodity, Hamels could have done much better.
Hamels is here for the long haul, and will likely be around through a rebuild. One pitcher who might not be is Cliff Lee. The day will come - probably sooner than later - when the Phillies finally give up on this particular core. Whoever among the veterans who is firing on all cylinders and playing well by the trade deadline should go. The contracts those players signed before salaries blew up should continue to look better and better and may not end up being so untradeable.
Who knows if the Yankees would have made such a deal if Alex Rodriguez had not given the Yankees the gift of a season where they do not have to pay his salary for the season. The Yankees are very much like the Phillies, with an aging core and few major league-ready players in the pipeline. With Cody Asche, Maikel Franco, and the Phillies young relief corps, I would think the Phillies are better off.
The Yankees were desperate for young, controllable players, and the Dodgers have enough money to make sure that the best pitcher in the game does not leave their control. Just imagine if both of those teams had a shot at Cole Hamels.