For Hamels, it's wait, see

says Cole Hamels of negotiations. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
says Cole Hamels of negotiations. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer ("It's all in Ruben's hands,")

The pitcher sounded in no hurry to reach a new deal.

Posted: March 30, 2012

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Cole Hamels did not come to spring training with any illusions. He will leave Florida on Sunday with his teammates and there will almost certainly be no new contract to sign. Free agency is closer than ever.

Yet all along, Hamels has spoken and acted with great confidence. He will soon be an even richer man, this much is sure. But as players inch toward massive paydays, nerves can dominate.

"Things will take care of itself," Hamels said Thursday after his final Grapefruit League outing - 5 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts and one run surrendered.

When Hamels speaks, it leaves impressions that he will come to terms with the Phillies. Perhaps that is intentional on Hamels' part, but a baseball source said the two sides are closer now than they were at the start of the spring.

There is no deadline on contract talks. Hamels' agent, John Boggs, has exchanged proposals with Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. It could only be a matter of time until the two sides find common ground, especially if Phillies president David Montgomery has his say. Montgomery values the team's homegrown talent, and Hamels is the youngest core player in this aging franchise.

Hamels was asked if he could categorize the current negotiations.

"I don't know," Hamels said. "It's all in Ruben's hands. If I just get in good shape and I play, the Phillies will make offers, and we will counter, until things look the way they need to look."

But once the season starts, and Hamels is that much closer to free agency, does anything change?

"No," Hamels said. "My only understanding is, if you sign anybody before opening day, you have to deal with the luxury tax. So that's the only thing I know of. Anything after goes toward next season. I understand that's where the Phillies are."

That used to be the case in certain circumstances, according to a baseball source. But in the new collective bargaining agreement, the timing of a player's new contract has no impact as regards the luxury tax cap. Hamels is locked into $15 million for 2012.

Still, it's interesting Hamels would mention a detail like that unprompted. Boggs was involved in a similar situation last season when Adrian Gonzalez, one of his clients, signed a seven-year deal April 16 with Boston. The parameters were discussed in spring training. So in a way, there are parallels to this situation. (Boggs spent a few days in Clearwater earlier this spring and met with Amaro.)

There was increased chatter about Hamels this week, not only because spring training is nearing an end, but because the sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers to Magic Johnson and his ownership group for $2.15 billion creates another potential suitor.

Hamels, of course, is from California. And the Dodgers will be looking to make a splash with their new cash this winter. What was Hamels' reaction?

"I didn't know Magic Johnson knew anything about baseball," he said.

But that could be Hamels' money one day.

"No," Hamels said, "that's not what I'm thinking about."

Hamels said he speaks to Boggs every other week. Typically, they'll discuss his golf game or family. Sometimes the agent will ask Hamels how he's feeling, and the answer this spring is positive.

As far as contract talk, that's limited, he claims.

"I haven't been thinking about it at all," Hamels said. "It's going to be one of those things that lingers until something happens."

But the way Hamels speaks, it sounds as if he knows more.

Contact Matt Gelb


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