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.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.