Phillies, Cole Hamels agree to a six-year, $144 million deal

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UPDATE: Jon Heyman says the deal is for six years and $144 million. There is also a 7th-year, vesting optiion making total package worth in excess of $160 million.

UPDATE: Buster Olney says that a deal is in place, with Hamels signing with the Phillies is for a little more than $140 million, over six years, pending a physical.

1:33 AM: FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal has the scoop: Cole Hamels and the Phillies are close to a six-year, $137.5 million contract extension that would be the second largest deal ever given to a pitcher.

Hamels would essentially get $23 million per year, the same amount CC Sabathia received in his original seven-year, $161 million pact with the Yankees. That deal is the biggest ever for a pitcher. In terms of annual salary, Hamels would be the game’s third highest-paid pitcher behind Sabathia, whose renegotiated deal with the Yanks puts him at $24.4 million per year, and teammate Cliff Lee, who is making $24 million per season as part of a five-year, $120 million contract.

All things considered, it looks like a very fair deal for both sides. Maybe the Dodgers would go crazy and try to blow Hamels out of the water with an offer this winter, but barring that, $140 million seemed to be the likely price tag for the left-hander. The deal allows Hamels to get market value and stay with the only club he’s known during his professional career.

With Hamels out of the way, Zack Greinke would be the only elite starter available in free agency this winter. Anibal Sanchez and Edwin Jackson would be next in line, something that will surely drive up their price tags. That Jackson settled for a one-year deal with the Nationals last winter is looking like a very astute move right now.

Hamels, 28, is 11-4 with a 3.23 ERA in 19 starts this season. While he battled injuries in high school and in the minors, he’s been plenty durable in the majors. His only DL stint in the last five years came in Aug. 2011, when he missed some time with shoulder inflammation. It didn’t prevent him from pitching 216 innings last year, and he’s on pace to make 30 starts for the fifth straight year in 2012. He’s 85-58 with a 3.38 ERA lifetime for the Phillies.

Yadier Molina will not enter contract negotiations during the 2017 season

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Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina is still open to extension talks during the last week of spring training. Once Opening Day rolls around, however, Molina has preemptively nixed any contract negotiations until the end of the 2017 season, when he’s scheduled to hit free agency.

Molina wants to stay with the Cardinals, or so he’s telling reporters, but he’s also “not afraid” to test the free agent market this fall should a deal fail to materialize. Via Goold:

I would love to stay, but at the same time I’m not afraid to go to free agency. I’ve still got many years in the tank. Believe me. I feel great. I feel like a 20-year-old kid. I’m not afraid to go to free agency.

The 34-year-old backstop is entering his final year under contract, though Goold points out that he has a $15 million option for 2018 that he can choose to decline in the event that it’s exercised by the team. He’s reportedly searching for a figure closer to those made by other top catchers like Buster Posey and Russell Martin.

The 2017 season will mark Molina’s 14th year in the Cardinals’ organization, building on a career that has spanned seven All-Star campaigns, nine postseason runs and two World Series championships in St. Louis. He batted .307/.360/.427 with eight home runs and a .787 OPS for the club in 2016.

Colby Rasmus could start 2017 on the disabled list

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Colby Rasmus isn’t ready to take outfield reps just yet. According to Rays’ manager Kevin Cash, that’s a red flag, one that could potentially postpone Rasmus’ debut as the club’s designated hitter and outfielder in 2017. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Rasmus will need to prove he can play a defensive position before getting cleared for the active roster, something which the veteran outfielder has yet to do this spring.

Rasmus, 30, signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rays following his two-year run with the Astros. He batted a meager .206/.286/.355 with 15 home runs and a .641 OPS in 2016 and was shut down in late September with an unspecified hip/groin issue. Entering the 2017 season, he’s expected to work his way back to a full-time role after undergoing surgery to repair his core muscle and left hip labrum last October.

The Rays also finalized their one-year, $1.2 million deal with catcher Derek Norris on Saturday and will need to clear room for him on the 40-man roster. Topkin speculates that the move could send Rasmus to the 60-day disabled list, though the outfielder is not projected to miss more than a couple weeks of the regular season.