CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Cole Hamels sounds like a guy who expects to finish his career in red pinstripes.
All that remains is for Hamels’ agent, John Boggs, and the Philadelphia Phillies to agree on a long-term contract.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Hamels expressed his fondness for the city, the organization and the fans. The 2008 World Series MVP avoided arbitration by signing a $15 million, one-year contract. He can become a free agent in November, but made it clear he’d rather stay in Philadelphia.
“I was very fortunate enough to be drafted to an organization that is trying to win and obviously has won,” Hamels said. “Every day, every year, we seem to get some top players. So that kind of shows the value and the direction the team wants to go. I’ve just been very fortunate to be a part of it. And it’s also something where I don’t know any better.
“I live in Philadelphia. I’ve been here for I guess 10 years now, so that’s been something that’s been kind of nice, kind of something I’ve been focused on. It’s a great organization to play for and I’d love to be a part of it.”
Hamels is the youngest of the Phillies’ three aces. He’s also the only one of the trio with a World Series ring. Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee have more individual awards on their trophy cases and probably more money in their bank accounts. But Hamels figures to cash in soon.
The lanky left-hander is expected to receive a contract in the range of the $120 million, five-year deal Lee got before last season. Halladay signed a $60 million, three-year contract extension through 2013 when he was traded to the Phillies in December 2009. Both pitchers were already in their 30s when they received those deals. Hamels turned 28 two months ago, so his age should be an advantage in negotiations.
“Those are two guys that are two of the best pitchers in major league baseball and for a substantial amount of years,” Hamels said. “I’ve been able to get stronger and a lot more intelligent baseball-wise. It’s just taking the next step to do what those two have done, which is to go out there and repeat, have successful years and stay healthy. That’s ultimately the big picture, to stay healthy, go out, play and help your team. That’s kind of where I’m at right now, to go out there and do it. And if I’m able to do it then things will obviously take care of itself.”
Hamels is coming off his most consistent season. He was 14-9 and set career bests in ERA (2.79) and WHIP (0.97) while earning his second trip to the All-Star game.
Hamels has refused to set a deadline for getting a new contract. His agent and Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. have had discussions and it’s possible a deal could be reached before opening day.
“I don’t have any deadline,” Hamels said. “I’m just going out and getting ready for this year, that’s my main focus. I have confidence in my agent and the Phillies in going out there and trying to get things done. I just kind of leave that matter to them, to try to figure out.”
Hamels was the main reason the Phillies won the second world championship in franchise history in 2008. He was MVP of the World Series and NLCS, going 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five postseason starts.
But for a guy who used to be the ace of the staff, he’s had no problems taking a back seat to Halladay, Lee and even Roy Oswalt for the 1½ years he was with the Phillies.
“All I ultimately want to do is play for a winning team, and the Phillies want to be a winning team,” Hamels said. “They have two great pitchers that are here. What better way to get mentored by the best of the best? You can’t ask for anything more. To compete at a level where you’re playing with the best players, it ups your game even more and I’ve been able to learn from that and take it into my game.”
Hamels had surgery on his left elbow to remove a bone spur, and another operation to repair a sports hernia on the same day in the offseason. He began throwing in November, and already seems on track.
The Phillies have won five straight NL East titles, but have regressed each season since beating the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series. With Hamels part of a strong staff, they are favorites to reach the postseason again.
“I want to be back in that moment and the Phillies want to be back in that moment, and I’m just very happy and pleased that I can hopefully help them get there,” Hamels said.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)