Originally posted on Phillies Nation  |  Last updated 3/29/12

We’re about 200 days from major league free agents being able to sign with teams other than their own. One such player is Cole Hamels, whose contract with the Phillies ends after the 2012 season. If Hamels isn’t re-signed within six days of the end of the 2012 World Series, he can sign elsewhere.

I’ve been documenting Hamels’ contract status for almost a year. It began last May with a comparison of a Hamels deal and the contract signed by Tigers ace Justin Verlander. It continued in late-August after Jered Weaver signed a team-friendly pact with the Angels.

As time has worn on, those two deals have become less and less meaningful with regard to Hamels’ impending payday. We aren’t looking at numbers like $85 or $90 million. We’re looking more so at a figure close to $120 million.

I wrote several months ago that a five-year, $100 million contract with a sixth-year team option at $22 million (with a $12 million buyout) would likely get Hamels signed. He gets his $20 million per season but the Phillies avoid handing out a six- or seven-year deal. The contract would be worth, at most, $122 million and at least $112MM.

On Wednesday, CSNPhilly.com Phillies insider Jim Salisbury reported that talks between the Phillies and Hamels have progressed, especially in the wake of the Dodgers being sold for $2 billion to an ownership group that will seek to make a splash in the coming years.

“One person with knowledge of the situation says the Phils know how much Hamels will cost – $20 million or more per season – and are set to pay it,” wrote Salisbury. “The person said the length of the deal is an issue, that the Phillies would like to do a four-year deal and Hamels wants more.”

The Phillies are offering four years like Jimmy Rollins wanted five in free agency. It’s unrealistic. Hamels would likely find a seven-year deal in free agency. Four is absurdly low for a pitcher of Hamels’ caliber. Four-year deals work for pitchers like Mark Buehrle, John Danks and Ryan Dempster. Not for a 28-year-old former World Series MVP in the prime of his career. Not for a pitcher who has a 2.92 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP and 300 more strikeouts than walks the past two seasons.

It’s a negotiation tactic. Start at four years and maybe you avoid six.

Salisbury said in both print and in a phone interview on “Daily News Live” that the Phillies feel optimistic and confident that a deal can be reached sooner rather than later.

It makes sense for the Phillies to get a deal done quickly — Hamels’ value will only increase with another brilliant season.

But a quick agreement also makes sense for Hamels himself, especially after watching his close friend Ryan Madson suffer a season-ending elbow injury that will likely forever derail Madson’s hopes for a huge payday.

Madson signed for $8.5 million this off-season with plans to re-test the market and secure a pricey multi-year deal this winter. But after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Madson will have to re-prove himself on an incentive-laden one-year deal that likely hovers around $4 million.

For Madson, a catastrophic injury will cost him approximately $25 million. For Hamels, it could easily be worth three-times that.

If the Phillies make an offer of five years, $100 million — guaranteeing Hamels at least $112 million and as much as $120MM — I don’t see how that offer gets left on the table.

The Phillies can afford it. Even if they give Hamels as much as $22 million per season, their 2013 payroll would be under a luxury tax threshold which then increases by $11 million in 2014.

It’s just going to come down to how long the Phillies stick to this artificial four-year offer before succumbing to the best homegrown pitcher they’ve ever developed.

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