Originally posted on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 7/20/12

If you took MRIs of Cole Hamels’ arm right now, he would probably get a clean bill of health. So would most elite pitchers who were about to receive nine-figure contracts. But that does not mean that they are likely to maintain their health and their elite performance level. Pitchers often fall apart soon after changing teams. I have written about this many times before, most notably in this year’s Hardball Times Annual. In that article, I produced the following chart of millions-of-dollars-per-WAR spent by teams for re-signed players (RSP) and other people’s players (OPP) in all multi-year deals ending between 2007 and 2011.

Millions of Dollars per WAR N RSP OPP Diff. All 196 3.7 5.1 39% Hitters 104 3.5 4.1 17% Starting Pitchers 44 4.1 7.9 93% Relief Pitchers 46 3.4 8.1 139%

*Note that I have adjusted this for fWAR from rWAR

You’re not reading that wrong. Starting pitchers who sign multi-year deals with other teams cost twice as much per WAR as ones who stay on the same team. I went on to explain that this is primarily because pitchers who stay on the same team usually beat their projections; pitchers who change teams usually fall short of their projections.

It’s not hard to see why this happens. When you see a pitcher every day, you learn a lot more about him than you do from a single MRI. You learn about his recovery after starts; you learn about what types of minor soreness he has had in his past; you learn about his workout routine and his work ethic. There is just way more information available to a team that has worked with a player for years. The Phillies have had that luxury with Cole Hamels, and they are apparently willing to offer him about $130 million for six years. Contract talks have been heating up. It’s not hard to tell that the Phillies probably see Hamels as a pitcher likely to maintain his elite status if they are willing to let that $130 million offer sit out there.

Hamels could get more than $130 million. Chris Cwik summarized this earlier today. Looking at his list, it looks like a fair offer would be something like $135 million. Not only that, but if Hamels does hit the free-agent market, then unlike the other pitchers on that list, Hamels’ bidders would not have to worry about losing a draft pick upon signing him (assuming he is traded midseason before hitting the free-agent market). That should add another $5 million to his price tag, so he is likely to get something like six years, $140 million on the free-agent market. But unlike the pitchers who changed teams on Chris’ list — like Johan Santana, John Lackey and Barry Zito — the Phillies’ interest in Hamels suggests that he is unlikely to either be hurt or to stink suddenly after changing teams.

If the Phillies do not extend Hamels, they are unlikely to be able to reproduce that $140 million of value elsewhere on the market. The above graph shows how unlikely they are to get that sort of value by signing a pitcher from anywhere else. Not only that, their main deficiency at hitting will be in the outfield — another area where teams get notoriously poor value per dollar.

Do the Phillies need to get younger? It would be smart. Is the Phillies’ farm system weak? Yes. But does their farm system doom them to failure? Hardly.

The Phillies have had a terrible season, but up and down their roster, they have the makings of a team that is going to be competitive next year. They will have Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay atop their rotation, along with the consistently above-average Vance Worley. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have lost a step — as long as a heel and two knees add up to one step — but they are still above-average players at their positions. Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz and Hunter Pence will all provide unambiguously above-average value at their positions. Add back an elite starting pitcher, and they have a good chance to win the division title.

Of course, the Phillies may not actually be engaging Hamels genuinely, and they may only be making a public-relations-driven effort. But chances are that if the Phillies are really disengaging with trade partners (as Jayson Stark suggests), they probably have concluded that Hamels is a safe bet to retain his value. If he does, then he is likely to prefer significantly more value for $140 million than whatever other pitchers the Phillies could replace him with. So, Ruben Amaro really should be signing Cole Hamels right now to whatever deal is necessary. That is, if he actually wants to.

Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Eddie Lacy defends Mike McCarthy for weight loss comments

Red Sox nearly had serious catcher emergency in loss to Tigers

Ohio State DL Dylan Thompson ineligible for season

Roger Federer will miss Olympics, U.S. Open with knee injury

Seahawks extend Pete Carroll through 2019


LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye releases first statement following car crash

Report: Brock Osweiler could have made more money staying with Broncos

Andrew Luck: Feels `as good as I've ever felt` for training camp

Amar'e Stoudemire announces retirement after signing one-day contract with Knicks

Report: Gregory failed multiple drug tests since suspension

Olympian Abby Johnston: Worst thing about Olympic village is no Pokemon

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

Report: Paul Pierce to return to Clippers

Jimbo Fisher: You come to FSU to win national championships

Andre Johnson worked out for Tennessee Titans

Shattenkirk for Krejci trade rumor still floating around

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman denies link to C.T.E.

Michael Vick: Cam Newton can’t beat me in 40-yard dash

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

Odell Beckham Jr. says Giants will play in Super Bowl LI

Iowa researchers say they can optimize Monday Night Football ratings with scheduling

Terrelle Pryor can visit Ohio State as five-year ban comes to a close

Rudy Gay admits to having ‘no idea’ about what the Kings are doing

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker