Cole Hamels on Wednesday agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, according to multiple reports, in turn ending any speculation as to whether the Boston Red Sox would sign the veteran left-hander to bolster their starting rotation.
This is notable, because the Red Sox reportedly attended Hamels’ free agency showcase last month and still could use additional pitching depth, namely in the rotation, where Boston’s hurlers have struggled to work deep into ballgames of late.
But really, Hamels was an imperfect fit for the Red Sox, for a number of reasons, and therefore his decision to join Los Angeles should be met with very little reaction in Boston.
First, keep in mind the year is 2021. And while Hamels might have something left in the tank at age 37, the reality is he’s pitched just 3 1/3 innings in a single major league start since 2019. He represents a question mark — more than an exclamation point — and the Red Sox don’t need any more of those while trying to piece together the most formidable rotation they can over the final two months of the regular season.
Which brings us to the bigger issue: Hamels, who dealt with triceps and shoulder problems in 2020, probably won’t be available to pitch until late August or early September, at the earliest, so signing him — at a time when Boston is scraping up against the luxury tax threshold, no less — does little to solve the Red Sox’s immediate need. The Dodgers, despite multiple injuries in their rotation, are better equipped to play the long game, especially after acquiring Max Scherzer from the Washington Nationals before last week’s Major League Baseball trade deadline.
If Hamels was ready to start in the majors tomorrow, that’d be one thing. The Red Sox, or any other team, would potentially receive enough bang for their buck to make the investment — reportedly a $1 million base salary plus a $200,000 bonus per start made — worthwhile down the stretch. But since it’s unclear when exactly he’ll toe a big league rubber, the more prudent move is to rely on internal reinforcements, who ultimately might provide comparable production, anyway.
Hamels is a four-time All-Star. He once was a legitimate ace who often saved his best work for pressure-packed moments. Now, who knows? Thus, he’s a far better fit for a team with which he can be a seamless ancillary piece rather than a potentially redundant hurler caught up in a game of musical chairs.
The only point where not making a push for Hamels might be a factor for Boston: If the Red Sox and Dodgers play in the World Series, which is a bridge both teams can cross if/when it arrives.
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