July 27, 2018


The Cubs were forced to make a move. Tyler Chatwood had another aggravating outing of walking 6 batters and putting the team into an early, big deficit.  Yu Darvish has been slow in his recovery to the point the team is now counting on a TJ-rehabber in Drew Smyly to make an impact in September.

So the Cubs made a trade for a second or third tier veteran starter in Cole Hamels. He has a no-hitter and a WS ring on his resume, but he has struggled for the Rangers this season. As MLBTR reports, the 34-year-old Hamels isn’t the ace that he once was, and he’s had his share of struggles in 2018 — albeit nearly all of them coming at his homer-happy home stadium in Arlington. Hamels is surrendering home runs at a career-worst rate, but it’s somewhat telling that 16 of the 23 round-trippers he’s yielded have come at Globe Life Park. Hamels has a 6.41 ERA, a 6.16 FIP and a 4.49 xFIP when pitching at home this season but a 2.93 ERA, 4.17 FIP and 3.83 xFIP on the road.

This is the same logic Theo used to justify signing Chatwood to a three year deal. Get him out of the hitter friendly Coors Field climate, and he will do great. It is apparent that throwing strikes or allowing home runs is not solely dependent on the climate.

The Cubs rotation, except for Lester, cannot get through five innings in any consistent manner. Hamels has to fit into the fourth or fifth starter role with the mentality of six plus innings in order to save the bullpen. Hendricks had another iffy outing, Quintana has had one quality start and two good ones in his last three, and Montgomery is hitting the wall by the fifth inning.

I suspect that Montgomery will move back into the bullpen as the long relief, emergency closer role from 2016.  Hamels will be in the rotation until Darvish returns. Then the real decision has to be made: keep sending Chatwood out to the mound to wet the bed, or go to a six man rotation (which Lester opposes.) You cannot trust the lack of command in Chatwood to be a leveraged relief pitcher. You can't waste Hamels potential for eating early innings in the bullpen.

In 20 starts this year, Hamels is 5-9, 4.72 ERA, 1.373 WHIP, 0.8 WAR. He is averaging 5 2/3 IP per start. If he fits into the rotation, the Cubs could probably count on 10-12 more starts from him (which would be slightly better than Chatwood's numbers). 

The Cubs gave up two minor league pitchers and a possible player-to-be-named later for Hamels. The Rangers will still eat most of the money owed to Hamels. Whether Hamels has anything left in the tank is the value of this trade.