SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Cole Hamels will turn 36 years old next month. He has thrown 1,958 innings over the past decade, sixth most in the Major Leagues during that span. Those are attributes one might associate with a pitcher nearing the end of his career.
Hamels is not doing that. He plans to pitch “at least five more seasons” in the Major Leagues, his agent, John Boggs, told MLB.com Tuesday.
The overwhelming amount of early interest in the free-agent left-hander gives credence to that ambition. Boggs said 13 teams have already contacted him regarding Hamels this offseason. Because he won’t command a lengthy contract comparable to Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, Hamels could sign by December -- if not sooner.
Hamels was born and raised in San Diego, and the Padres are among the most aggressive teams in the starting-pitching market. The Angels -- the Padres’ nearest Major League neighbor -- are in the same category.
Hamels no longer resides in San Diego, but Boggs said Hamels has given consideration to playing in his hometown.
“It’s cool for him to think about coming home to San Diego,” Boggs said. “More than anything, he wants to compete for a championship. The chance to win is what’s going to drive his decision-making.”
Hamels told MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki last week that he’s open to signing a one-year contract with the right postseason contender. Regarding the possibility of returning to Philadelphia -- where he was drafted and won 2008 National League Championship Series and World Series MVP honors -- Hamels told Zolecki, “I’d love the opportunity to come back.”
Hamels, a first-time free agent, was not given a qualifying offer by the Cubs and is therefore not tied to Draft-pick compensation. He’s coming off a 2019 season in which he posted the highest WHIP (1.39) and walk rate (3.6) of his Major League career, while going 7-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 27 starts with the Cubs.
Didi back in Cincy?
The Reds are open to upgrading at shortstop and have interest in free agent Didi Gregorius, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.
If Gregorius lands in Cincinnati, it will represent a homecoming: Gregorius signed his first pro contract with the Reds in 2007 before being dealt to the D-backs in the three-way trade that brought Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati in December 2012.
Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams described Gregorius as “incredibly popular," a “great teammate” and a “great communicator” during his initial tenure in Cincinnati.
“I loved having him there,” Williams said. “When we put him in that trade, it was a difference-maker for us, [because] we got a guy like Choo that we could put at the top of our lineup and helped get us to the postseason. [Didi] was behind [Zack] Cozart [on the depth chart].
“I never thought he was going to hit quite as much as he did, but you knew there was potential. You can’t look back and have [the trades] all over. I think it worked out for everybody.”
Around the Majors
• When Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins was asked to describe Bo Bichette’s ceiling as a player, his response suggested that the 21-year-old shortstop doesn’t have one. “He wants to be the best player in the game,” Atkins said. “He wants to be in Hall of Fame discussions. It’s so inspiring to be around. ... When he’s saying those things, you believe him.”
• Many in the industry expect the Blue Jays will listen to offers for closer Ken Giles this offseason, but Atkins said he’s barely had any “selling” conversations. Instead, Atkins said the team is focused on adding starting pitching and is optimistic about realizing that objective, in part because the Blue Jays’ young (and inexpensive) position players give them payroll flexibility to pursue free agents.
• Tigers GM Al Avila said Casey Mize, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft and the club's No. 1-ranked prospect, is most likely to open 2020 in the Triple-A Toledo rotation, but he could reach the Majors by midseason -- especially if rotation spots open with moves at the Trade Deadline. Avila said the same applies to Mize’s peers in this year's Double-A Erie rotation: right-handers Alex Faedo and Matt Manning and left-handers Tarik Skubal and Joey Wentz.
• The Rays could have a pair of two-way players, Brendan McKay and Jake Cronenworth, in their Major League camp next year. “Try not to put limits on them; let them define their limits and determine what they’re capable of doing,” said Erik Neander, the team’s senior vice president of baseball operations. “There aren’t a lot of guys that have the arms those guys do and also have the skills they have as position players. We’re going to allow them to continue to develop on both sides of the ball.”