Hamels is hot under the contract The Phillies renewed the lefthander's pact at $500,000. He called the move a "low blow."

Posted: March 03, 2008

TAMPA, Fla. — This could be the 1-2 contract punch that Phillies fans have feared.

Cole Hamels expressed his utter frustration yesterday that he could not come to an agreement with the team on his 2008 contract. Yesterday, the Phillies renewed his contract for $500,000, which is about $200,000 less than what Hamels had sought.

"It was a low blow," Hamels said in the visitors' clubhouse at Legends Field, where he allowed four runs and two home runs in two innings of a 7-7 exhibition tie with the New York Yankees.

The 24-year-old lefthander finds himself in a situation similar to that of Ryan Howard last year. He feels underpaid and a little unappreciated.

The Phillies feel otherwise.

"I think the one thing about us is that we treat people as fairly as possible," Phillies general manager Pat Gillick said. "We think he's been treated very fairly. That's basically all we can do - try to do our responsibility to the player. And the figure we renewed him at, we think it's appropriate."

Before a player is eligible for salary arbitration - eligible players have between three and six years of major-league service time, although a "Super Two" player like Howard had more than two but less than three - teams can pay that player whatever they want. No player in baseball history has received more than $900,000 in a season before he has become eligible for arbitration. (Howard was paid that amount by the Phillies in 2007, and Albert Pujols received that amount from the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003.)

The Phillies are "very business-savvy," said Hamels, who is expected to be a "Super Two" player after this season. "When you know you can have a guy for a certain amount, why go up? I mean, truly. If you're running a successful business, I don't know why you really would."

But in the next breath, Hamels said he would remember this.

"That will affect down the line certain things that come up," he said. "You can't just all of a sudden throw everything out at [a player] at the last second and think that's really going to make him happy, because you still have checkmarks for what [the team] didn't do in the years before."

"Let him do it," Gillick said.

Of course, Gillick will not be involved in future negotiations. He's leaving the organization after this season.

A player not eligible for arbitration can agree to terms, or the team can renew his contract on its own. Hamels said the figure he would have agreed to was only slightly higher than the $500,000.

Howard had the Phillies renew his contract in each of the previous two years before he went to an arbitration hearing with the Phillies last month.

He won a record $10 million.

Hamels was paid $400,000 in 2007, but he believed he deserved a bigger raise after he went 15-5 with a 3.39 ERA and made the National League all-star team.

For comparison's sake, New York Yankees righthander Chien-Ming Wang went 19-6 with a 3.63 ERA in 2006. The Yankees renewed him for $489,500 last year, his last year before becoming arbitration-eligible.

Tampa Bay lefthander Scott Kazmir, a pitcher whom Hamels compared himself to yesterday, went 10-8 with a 3.24 ERA in 2006. The Rays paid him $424,300 last year, also his final season before arbitration eligibility.

"I know what I want to do, and I know what I can do," Hamels said. "When it gets in my favor, it will be nice. I did [renew] just because I felt like I wasn't equally compensated. For all the efforts I go out and do, you want to have that sort of respect. And I feel like it wasn't there."

The Phillies could open the season with a team-record payroll of more than $106 million that could escalate to more than $110 million if players attain certain performance bonuses. Hamels acknowledged that he could be with a franchise like the Florida Marlins, which trades players instead of paying them big salaries.

"I'm lucky enough to be an organization where they do pay their players," he said. "But there's a lot of ups and downs in the business."

Hamels' agent, John Boggs, tempered his client's frustration.

"You never like to anticipate what future negotiations are going to hold," Boggs said. "It's a situation where we would like to have a salary that is deserving, but I realize that he's under control. I would have liked for them to give us the increase that we're looking for, but it's a situation where there's not a whole lot we can do about it. . . . His job is to continue to put up the numbers he put up last year and continue to make strides."

In the end, money typically talks. And if the money is there, Hamels likely will listen. He will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2012 season.

"I love playing here," Hamels said. "And I don't want to ever have to play against Chase Utley or Ryan Howard. I'd rather be teammates with them as long as possible. I don't think the organization wants to separate us. I like knowing that."

Contact staff writer Todd Zolecki at 215-854-4874 or tzolecki@phillynews.com.

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