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.

Hideki Matsui thinks Shohei Otani should pitch and hit in MLB

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Yankees’ special advisor and former outfielder Hideki Matsui expects to help the club “convince or recruit” Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani, according to a report from MLB.com’s Deesha Thosar. The Yankees are currently viewed as the favorites to sign Otani, though there still figures to be plenty of competition for his services when he finally becomes eligible to enter Major League Baseball.

Matsui also told Thosar that while he hasn’t seen a player find success as a hybrid pitcher/slugger in the majors, he’s taken notice of Otani’s success in both areas. “He’s done well in Japan, so as a baseball fan I’m looking forward to how he’s going to do here in the Majors and in the U.S.,” Matsui said, later adding, “If [pitching and hitting is] something he wants to do, and the team wants it, then why not?”

Neither the Yankees nor any other suitor should be too concerned with Otani’s ability to translate his .332 batting average and 3.20 ERA to MLB — at least, not just yet. There are still a few roadblocks in his path to the major leagues, most notably the lack of approval from the Players Association. Per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, the union doesn’t want to sign off on an agreement that would give the Nippon Ham Fighters a $20 million posting fee in exchange for Otani’s services. According to the posting system rules, Otani himself would be eligible to receive no more than a $4 million signing bonus.

The good news in all of this? The union agreed to reach a final decision by Monday, November 21, so there’s still a chance Major League Baseball will see the talented two-way player bring his unique skillset to the field in 2018.