The Dodgers are nearing a deal with free-agent lefty Cole Hamels, reports MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter). The 37-year-old Hamels recently held a widely attended showcase for clubs and will give the Dodgers another option in the rotation once he builds up to game readiness. Hamels is represented by JBA Sports.
Hamels’ 2020 season with the Braves was wiped out by a series of triceps and shoulder issues. Signed to a one-year, $18M contract in December 2019, he only threw 3 1/3 innings during his time with Atlanta. A quiet offseason ensued, with Hamels waiting until his shoulder was back to 100 percent before auditioning for clubs. That might’ve taken longer than initially anticipated, but the lefty drew scouts from upward of 20 teams last month once he felt ready to go.
It’s unlikely that Hamels will be an immediate option for the Dodgers. He’s pitched just 3 1/3 innings since the end of the 2019 season and hadn’t been throwing in game settings prior to his showcase. For some context, Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski discussed Hamels’ showcase with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark and laid out the reason that teams in need of immediate pitching help didn’t pounce on Hamels right away.
“The one thing in Cole’s case, and he’s the first to admit it, he’s not ready to pitch now,” said Dombrowski just a few days after Hamels’ showcase for teams. “He has to go through his own ‘spring training,’ so you’re talking about somebody that’s maybe 30 to 40 days down the road helping you.”
Those comments came back on July 19, and Hamels has surely been working out in the interim — likely with more intensity as he geared up to sign with a team. Still, it stands to reason that the Dodgers would send him through at least a handful of minor league rehab starts, so Hamels seems like a late-August or early-September possibility more than someone who’ll be thrown right into the fire.
Whenever he does make his debut, Hamels will bring one of the more accomplished track records of the current generation of pitchers to the Dodgers staff. He is a World Series champion and former World Series and NLCS MVP who has made four All-Star teams and has long been considered one of the game’s premier arms. His 2010-16 peak saw him pitch 1,477 2/3 innings of 3.14 ERA ball. His work since that peak has dropped off a bit, but Hamels still tossed 480 1/3 innings of 3.92 ERA ball from 2017-19 before last year’s injury-ruined season.
Rotation help has become an unexpected need for the Dodgers, which lost Dustin May to Tommy John surgery early. Los Angeles also has both Clayton Kershaw (forearm inflammation) and Tony Gonsolin (shoulder inflammation) on the injured list at the moment. Trevor Bauer has been on administrative leave since early July following sexual assault allegations that were brought forth against him. Starter-turned-reliever David Price moved back into the rotation last month and built up to about 75 pitches, but his most recent outing was once again a single-inning relief appearance.
The Dodgers addressed their sudden lack of rotation depth at the trade deadline, first picking up the currently injured Danny Duffy before putting together a deadline-day blockbuster acquisition of Max Scherzer. That duo, plus the apparently impending addition of Hamels, ought to give the Dodgers some more firepower on the starting staff down the stretch in a tightly contested three-team race for the NL West crown. For now, the Dodgers will lean on Scherzer, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias as their top three options.
It’s not fully clear just when Hamels, Kershaw or Gonsolin could be cleared to pitch for the Dodgers. Hamels needs the aforementioned buildup, while the team’s last update on Kershaw was that he’d experienced some “residual soreness” following his latest throwing session. Gonsolin hit the 10-day IL on July 31, and there’s been no update since. Duffy landed on the injured list back on July 20, owing to a forearm strain. Royals GM Dayton Moore said on July 27 that the club felt Duffy was perhaps three to four weeks from a return.
The Dodgers themselves probably don’t know exactly how their rotation will shape up over the season’s final eight-plus weeks, but their recent pickups of Scherzer, Duffy and Hamels give the team an enviable stockpile of accomplished arms from which to draw as they look to chase down the first-place Giants and defend their 2020 World Series victory.