Cole Hamels fell just short of getting the biggest deal ever given to a pitcher, but he easily became the highest paid Phillies player in history. The Phillies signed Hamels, 28, to a six-year, $144 million deal that has a vesting option for a seventh season that would push the total package to $160 million. The deal also includes a limited no-trade clause.
"The timing of the trade deadline is ultimately what made things happen," Hamels' agent John Boggs told USA TODAY. "The last three days, they made a very aggressive push on us. The Phillies had to address this and address it now."
At a press conference announcing the deal, Hamels said he was struck by the reaction of the crowd at Citizens Bank Park when he walked off the field in his last start with the team. It was thought Hamels may be making his last start there in a Phillies uniform and the crowd gave him a standing ovation even after he had given up a lead in the game against the Giants. "I wanted to give the Phillies every opportunity [to re-sign me]. It's really hard to leave a place where you have so many good memories and so many more good ones to come," explained Hamels.
The deal officially takes Hamels off the trade market where he was likely headed had he turned down the Phillies offer. At various times, there were rumors of Hamels being dealt to the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers or other teams looking for starting pitching prior to the July 31 trade deadline.
Depending on how the deal is structured, the Phillies have as much as $128 million committed to seven players - Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins - leading to speculation about how they're going to be able to keep the payroll under the $178 million luxury tax payroll level. Making things even more difficult is the fact that Hunter Pence is also arbitration eligible and could make as much as $15 million next season.
In a radio interview after the press conference, GM Ruben Amaro didn't seem too concerned about the payroll. "I think we can still do some things financially. And, in the end, I've never been told that we absolutely can't go over any certain amount, but obviously, we want to be careful about how we spend our money."