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.

Braves release James Loney

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Just a few days after inking him to a minor league deal, the Braves have released first baseman James Loney, the team announced on Monday. Loney became expendable when the Braves acquired Matt Adams from the Cardinals on Saturday as a replacement for the injured Freddie Freeman.

Loney, 33, appeared in two games at Triple-A Gwinnett. He had one hit, a single, and one walk in eight plate appearances.

Loney will likely have to wait for another team to deal with an injured first baseman or DH before he can secure another contract.

Ian Kinsler lists the five toughest pitchers in the AL Central

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Every now and then, The Players’ Tribune runs a “five toughest” feature. In 2015, David Ortiz listed the five toughest pitchers he ever faced. Last month, Christian Yelich wrote up the five toughest pitchers in the NL East. Now, it’s Ian Kinsler‘s turn with the five toughest pitchers in the AL Central.

Kinsler goes into detail explaining why each pitcher is difficult to face, so hop over to The Players’ Tribune for his reasoning. His list

Presumably, Kinsler intentionally omitted his Tiger teammates from the list. He has faced Justin Verlander a fair amount earlier in his career, and he has only a .176/.333/.235 batting line in 42 plate appearances against the right-hander. Verlander’s stuff is often described as tough to hit in one phrase or another. Kinsler has also struggled against Indians starter Carlos Carrasco (.590 OPS), but one can understand why he would be omitted from a list of five given who was already listed.