After over a century-long championship drought, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016. They celebrated with the entire city of Chicago and with Cubs fans around the world. The victory parade was estimated to be the seventh largest gathering of humans in recent history. There were stories of fans driving for hours to listen to the game on the radio along the grave sites of relatives. Basically, it was a pretty big deal. Not long after though, the Cubs front office had to get to work, kicking off the offseason by declining starting pitcher Jason Hammel‘s 2017 contract option. The result: a huge opportunity for the Miami Marlins.
Hammel had a $12 million dollar option on his contract for 2017 or a $2 million buyout. The Cubs chose to buy him out and so Hammel joins a very weak free agent class for starting pitchers. The Cubs may have, in fact, done Hammel a favor because in a “normal” free agent class, Hammel would be a middle-of-the-road option. But in 2016, he may indeed be the best pitcher available.
Hammel ended 2016 poorly, but it was mostly due to tightness in his throwing elbow. For the year, he posted a 15-10 record with a 3.83 ERA. He struck out 7.78 batters per 9 innings and walked only 2.86 in that span. There were some concerning trends, however, as his 4.48 FIP was significantly higher than his ERA, and his rate stats all went pretty significantly in the wrong direction compared to the previous two seasons.
Still, as mentioned earlier, the 34-year-old Hammel may be the best pitcher available on the free agent market this winter. The biggest need the Marlins have this offseason is definitely pitching. So while Hammel may not post the mid-3s ERA he posted in 2014 or the strikeout-per-inning he posted in 2015, the Marlins need to make Hammel a contract offer as soon as possible.
He earned $9 million this past season and his option was for $12 million. He and his agent are likely looking for a multi-year deal worth about $10 million per season. While the Marlins certainly shouldn’t lock themselves into a long deal with a 34-year-old pitcher who may already be declining, they need to do something to help the pitching staff, and Hammel should be a solid mid-rotation guy for at least another year or two. The Marlins should offer Hammel something like 3 years/$30 million and hope he accepts. Otherwise, it’ll be time to move onto the even-less-exciting options on the free agent market like Edinson Volquez or Jeremy Hellickson.
Considering the fact two of us here at Marlin Maniac came up with this concept independent of discussing it, we feel pretty confident about this actually being a good idea. With names already starting to fly off the market now that the shock of a Cubs title has worn off, there’s no time to lose.