After the Braves parted ways with Julio Teheran and seem very unlikely to bring Dallas Keuchel back, a veteran replacement in the starting rotation almost seemed like an inevitable signing for Atlanta. There were rumors that the Braves were going to make a run at Madison Bumgarner and while that does appear to be true (depending on who you trust and who you don’t trust), I think we’re all conditioned to expect the unexpected with this particular front office.
So, say hello to Cole Hamels! Instead of splashing the cash on a multi-year deal with a vet like Bumgarner, the Braves decided to go down the one-year deal path again. If some of us didn’t see Cole Hamels in particular coming, then maybe we should have — he laid out his intentions during this offseason.
“I’m not there to handcuff somebody or an organization,” Hamels said. “That’s what the younger guys can do. I can do one year here and there and just play as long as I can play. I think that’s what will help give me an opportunity to play on teams that are trying to go to the postseason. If you need one guy, I can just kind of bounce around. Obviously, if the Phillies were interested in longer than one, I’d entertain that, too. But I think I want the opportunity to have as many opportunities to get to the postseason and try to win.
While that article came from a Phillies perspective, it fits the Braves to a tee. Cole Hamels is in the stage of his career where it’s definitely understandable that he wants to get another crack at winning a World Series, and he’s still good enough to command the money that he’s receiving on a one-year deal as well. You’ve probably heard the phrase that ‘there’s no such thing as a bad one-year deal’ a million times now and that absolutely applies to this deal.
Now, Hamels is also going to bring a lot of intrigue with him on the way to Cobb County. He’s dealt with oblique issues in two of the past three seasons and both times the oblique injury adversely affected his season once he returned. It was especially stark in 2019, which is when Hamels came out of the gates in such a strong manner that there was talk that he’d be heading to the All-Star Game. Instead, his oblique acted up on him and he came back too early from the injury and really didn’t get right again until the season was winding down. Hamels himself admitted in article that he came back too soon and would have been better served to really take his time recovering from the notoriously tricky oblique injury.
So that’s basically the big takeaway when it comes to Hamels and his performance. If he can stay healthy, this could end up turning out as a great signing for the Braves. Again, they needed a veteran in the starting rotation to replace the experience that was exiting the team and he provides both experience and (when healthy) production. However, if he gets injured then hopefully the Braves can learn from Hamels’ past and figure out that he’s probably going to need all the time he can get and then some in order to come back and be productive as well.
Hopefully, he can get a blessing from the baseball gods and avoid injury altogether. Hamels has plenty left in his tank and there’s no reason to think that he’s just going to fall off of a cliff next season — especially since he finished 2019 on a strong note once he was presumably fully healed up. Either way, a fully healthy Cole Hamels would be a huge benefit to the Braves in 2020.
Furthermore, it’s very encouraging that the Braves are indeed being very aggressive during Hot Stove season. Even after the Braves did everything that they did to boost their bullpen, there was still a tiny fear that they would stop there. Instead, it appears that the Braves are indeed planning on doing everything they can to make sure that the team comes back and plays at a high level for next season as well. Of course, this team is in a position where October performance is what’s going to define their legacy year-in and year-out but it’s evident from their actions that the organization clearly isn’t satisfied with simply making it to the playoffs now.
The Braves still have some names left on their offseason shopping list to cross off, but they’ve made a huge dent in addressing their concerns and still have a lot of the offseason ahead of them to continue adding to the team. The bullpen additions were impressive, they’ve got their catching situation sorted out and now they’ve got themselves a proven veteran starter in the form of Cole Hamels for next season. There’s still more work to be done, but I think we can be confident in the front office doing what it takes to fill out the rest of their needs with quality talent.