Cubs exercise option on Cole Hamels, trade Drew Smyly to Texas

Sep 20, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Drew Smyly (33) throws a pitch during the second inning against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Cubs exercised their $20 million option on Cole Hamels on Friday, solidifying their rotation for next year, and traded fellow left-hander Drew Smyly to the Texas Rangers.

Hamels, who turns 35 in December, went 4-3 with a 2.36 ERA in 12 starts after he was acquired in a July 27 trade with Texas — a frequent trade partner for Chicago since Theo Epstein took over the Cubs’ front office in 2011. Had the Cubs declined the option and paid a $6 million buyout, the Rangers would have paid the Cubs an additional $6 million.

The 29-year-old Smyly is heading to Texas after missing his only year in Chicago as part of his recovery from Tommy John surgery in June 2017. The Cubs also parted with a player to be named in the deal in exchange for a player to be named.

Smyly signed a $10 million, two-year contract with Chicago last December. He was healthy at the end of last season, but the contending Cubs ran out of time in terms of bringing him back.

Hamels gives manager Joe Maddon a deep group of starting pitchers as the Cubs try for their fifth consecutive playoff appearance. Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Yu Darvish also are expected to return, with Mike Montgomery and Tyler Chatwood waiting in the wings.

Hamels, a former first-round pick, made his major league debut with Philadelphia in 2006. He is 156-114 with a 3.40 ERA in 13 big league seasons.

He was working on perhaps the worst season of his career when Chicago got him from Texas for right-hander Eddie Butler, minor league pitcher Rollie Lacy and a player to be named. He was 5-9 with a 4.72 ERA in 20 starts with the last-place Rangers at the time of the trade, but the Cubs felt a change of scenery and a pennant race might help him get back on track.

They were right.

Hamels had an instant impact with Chicago, going 4-0 with a sparkling 0.79 ERA in his first five starts with the team. He was unbeaten with the Cubs until he was hit hard in a loss at Arizona in his 10th start on Sept. 19.

When the NL wild-card game went into extra innings, Hamels made just his second major league relief appearance and responded with two scoreless innings in Chicago’s 2-1 loss to Colorado. He is 7-6 with a 3.41 ERA in 17 career playoff appearances.

The option completes the deal Hamels signed with Philadelphia in July 2012, bringing the total value to $158 million for seven years.

Hamels struck out 13 while pitching a no-hitter at Wrigley Field in his final start with Philadelphia in 2015. He was traded to Texas six days later, and helped the Rangers to two AL West titles.

Earlier this week, the Cubs exercised their $6.25 million option for Pedro Strop and fellow reliever Brandon Kintzler picked up his $5 million player option.

Strop, one of the baseball’s most consistent relievers since he was acquired in a July 2013 trade with Baltimore, went 6-1 with 13 saves and a 2.26 ERA in 60 appearances last season.