How Trading For Cole Hamels Loses Yu Darvish

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports is reporting the Rangers are on the verge of acquiring Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher, Yovani Gallardo, but the deal has not yet been officially announced.

By now, we have all heard the rumors of the Rangers’ interest in Philadelphia Phillies left-handed starting pitcher Cole Hamels. We all know, or should know by now, that the Rangers are one of only two teams in the American League that are not on Hamels’ no trade list. The other team being the New York Yankees. The Rangers would have a slight edge over the Yankees in my mind based on the fact that Hamels’ wife has family in Texas, and in St. Louis. Family often plays a factor later in a player’s career.

There have been several articles written about Hamels and why or why not he should be traded, why Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is asking for some team’s entire farm system for Hamels, and the often adverse effect a pitcher has when going from the National League to the American League.

One of the better articles I read was from Jeff Sullivan of Just A Bit Outside on the Risk and Reward of Waiting to Trade for Cole Hamels. This article explains what happens if you trade for Hamels now, or if you wait until the trade deadline, and how much you would have to give up now versus then. It’s a very good read and really breaks down, in depth, how Amaro has to carefully play his cards right when it comes to potentially moving his ace.

Of course, the biggest obstacle in moving Hamels is his contract. The southpaw is owed $94 million over the next four years with a fifth year option at $6 million. That is the route I want to take you on today, the money aspect and how it could possibly effect your Texas Rangers.

There is no doubt that Cole Hamels is the definition of a top of the rotation pitcher, a true number one starter most would say. Based on what some other ace pitchers are getting on the open market, one would say that $94 million is kind of a bargain for Hamels, and I would tend to agree based solely on market value.

If you look a little further though, what would it take for Hamels to provide surplus value for the Rangers? What would it take for him to make a trade “worth it”?

Let’s go on the basis that a win is worth $7 million, which is pretty standard in today’s market. Hamels is making $23.5 million per season, so that means he would need to be a 3.3 win player each year over the next four years just to break even in terms of value. Hamels has been at least a four win player every year except his rookie season in 2006, and in 2009. So, on the surface he appears to be providing roughly $7 to $8 million in surplus value per season with the Phillies. It is safe to say that the Phillies have gotten far more than their money’s worth out of Hamels, which makes it understandable that Amaro is asking for an arm and a leg for Hamels.

As Jeff Sullivan points out in his article that I mentioned above, if the Phillies wait to trade Hamels at the trade deadline, he becomes twice as valuable because wins typically cost teams more in July than they would in the offseason because of a team’s desperation to add a missing piece to further improve their chances in the pennant race. So, if the Rangers want to trade for Hamels, it’s smarter to do it now, rather than waiting until July.

Now that we have the value aspect of Hamels out of the way, let’s see what his contract will do to the Rangers payroll over the next four seasons, and if the Rangers can even afford to make such a move.

Jon Daniels has gone on record as saying that he doesn’t anticipate the overall payroll going too much over the $130 million threshold. The Rangers payroll for 2014 is already projected to be at $131.5 millionaccording to Baseball Reference.

There is our first problem.

The Rangers already have nearly $106 million committed to just nine players for 2016, per Cots Contracts. Add in Cole Hamels’ $23.5 million, and you are already at the anticipated payroll threshold for 2016, and you only have 10 players signed. There is problem two.

But wait, there’s more!

Let’s skip 2017, and move on to 2018. This will be a huge year for the Rangers roster because 12 players are 1st year arbitration eligible including Rougned Odor, Luis Sardinas, Ryan Rua, Jake Smolinski, and Corey Knebel. Those guys could very well get a significant raise and those are just some of the 1st year eligible players. Michael Choice, Nick Tepesch, and Nick Martinez are all 2nd year eligible players and Tanner Scheppers, Robbie Ross, Jurickson Profar, and Robinson Chirinos are all 3rd year eligible players.

Baseball Reference projects that the 2018 Rangers payroll, after arbitration raises, to be $135 million.  Add in Cole Hamels again and you are at an estimated $140.5 million projected.

Yu know who is missing from the 2018 roster?

Yu Darvish.

There might lie your biggest problem.

Yu Darvish is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the 2017 season, however he may opt out of his contract after the 2016 season if he finishes in the top two of the Cy Young voting this season.

There is zero doubt in my mind that Darvish will command a contract well over the $100 million range, probably over five or six years. For arguments sake, let’s say that Darvish wins the Cy Young in 2015 and opts out after 2016 to become a free agent. He will be 30 years old and coming off a stellar first five years in the big leagues. With Darvish’s competitive fire, one would assume he would want to be the highest paid Japanese player of all time, and want to surpass the $155 million contract given to Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees last winter.

Darvish, I would assume, would ask for something along the lines of six year deal worth $175 million, which would put him at the Felix Hernandez level in terms of overall value, just below Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw. In terms of average annual value, it would be just a hair over $29 million a year, slightly below Clayton Kershaw. That is what I think he will command, but what he desires and what he is offered are entirely different scenarios.

There are many factors that could change between now and then as well, so these figures are by no means set in stone, but it at least gives you an idea of what to expect from Darvish going forward.

If the Rangers are hesitant about going over the $135 million payroll threshold, then signing Yu Darvish will be a challenge. If you add Hamels contract, then re-signing Darvish becomes virtually impossible.

See the conundrum? Trade for Hamels, increase chances of losing Darvish.

Now the Rangers could try and negotiate an extension with Yu now, and not let him hit the free agent market. But Darvish knows his value will be high on the open market, so any extension would need to be very fruitful for him.

It’s a pick your poison kind of deal with Hamels and Darvish, and that is just money wise, that doesn’t even begin to take into account the ramifications of trading away top prospects for Hamels and how that would affect the club down the road.  That is something Brandon Land of One Strike Away talks abouthere.

On the flip side, however, adding Hamels potentially makes you an instant contender in the AL West as long as your offense stays healthy. A trio of Darvish, Hamels, and Holland at the top of the rotation would be pretty formidable, and with the potential of Yovani Gallardo as your fourth starter, competing in 2015 does not seem unreasonable. If the offense is healthy, the club suddenly becomes a legit 90+ win team in my mind. Add in Martin Perez in late July, and you have yourself a very robust starting rotation. It makes you a contender now, at least for the next year or two, but potentially sacrifices your future beyond that.

However, while I do believe that Hamels will provide the Rangers with equal to surplus value, I’m not sure I’m willing to attain him at the cost of prospects and having no shot at re-signing Yu Darvish. At least with Yu Darvish, we know what we are getting. Cole Hamels has been in the National League his entire career. The struggle with NL only pitchers coming over to the AL is a real struggle for most. There are outliers who have made the transition well, but many of those are Hall of Famers. The ones we remember, I’m looking at you Ryan Dempster, have been terrible for the Rangers. I am by no means comparing Hamels to Dempster, but you get my point. The conversion is real.

I’m in favor of keeping my prospects, having a chance to re-sign Darvish and Holland (who is a free agent in 2017), combine them with Martin Perez, Chi Chi Gonzalez and perhaps Luis Ortiz by the 2018 season.

That could end up being the scariest rotation in all of baseball.

Did I just hear someone mention the 1997 Atlanta Braves rotation?

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Billy Casey
Billy is a baseball fanatic and has been around the game since he was four years old. The first ever game he attended was in September of '89 and Pete Incaviglia denied him an autograph after he had a bad batting practice session. Billy has held a grudge since. Billy is also a baseball coach who is known to dance around the dugout like Ron Washington during big plays in the game.

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