Amidst injury and a rapidly closing championship window, it is no secret what the Phillies’ most important order of business is off the field in 2012: sign Cole Hamels to a long-term extension.
The progress in that goal is good to this point. The sides have had discussions, according to CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury, and while a deal being done by Opening Day appears to be a stretch, the sides are in the same ballpark when it comes to money terms. The Phillies are willing to pay Hamels around $20 million a season in a new deal, a number that Hamels and his agent are agreeing on.
What is being disagreed upon is the length of the contract. The Phillies want a four-year deal. Hamels is shooting for longer, probably in the range of a five or six-year deal like the one that Cliff Lee got from the Phillies in December 2010.
Just days after Salisbury tweeted encouraging progress in the Hamels’ negotiations, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal shot them down, saying Hamels’ agent and the Phillies’ front office haven’t talked in at least three weeks.
Now, here’s where things get interesting. Hamels remains positive that a deal will get done, but let a hint that a deal could already be done leak. Hamels said that the luxury tax is the only thing standing in the way for the Phillies, and that if they were to make any deal official before Opening Day, they may face the luxury tax penalty. Last season, the Boston Red Sox chose to announce an extension with Adrian Gonzalez in April of last season – after Opening Day – but had finalized the terms of the deal and agreed months before in an effort to avoid the luxury tax. That could be the case with Hamels.
However, baseball sources say that the luxury tax penalty doesn’t work that way anymore under the new CBA, so the Phillies could go about their business as is. But perhaps with a new system in place, the Phillies are simply waiting for Opening Day before they announce a nice long-term deal for Hamels.
A few things are clear. Hamels wants to remain a Phillie. The Phillies want to keep Hamels. Hamels has a big pay day waiting for him sometime soon.
For now, it may be best to keep a close eye on things with Hamels and the Phillies, especially in the coming days. The season starts in just five days, so it could be that soon that we hear of an extension for Hamels.
At this point, it wouldn’t surprise me if by May the Phillies are announcing a deal. At the same time, it wouldn’t shock me either if this waiting all the way to the offseason, where I hate to say, I have little hope the Phillies would be able to retain the ace.
But the talks at this time are good, which can only provide hope that the Phillies will lock up their ace for good soon. For all we know, it could be done already.