Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks

The Phillies go big with Hamels. Is it too big?

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The Phillies deal with Cole Hamels is big. Really big. Like, the second largest contract to a pitcher in baseball history big. $144 million guaranteed, $161 million with a vesting option, the details of which are not known.

But here’s the question: can the Phillies really pull this off?

And by “this,” I mean the vast payroll outlays they have on the books.  As of now, the Phillies owe $133 million in 2013 to only nine players. Add to that a $5 million option owned to Carlos Ruiz that they’ll certainly pick up.  I would assume at this point that Hunter Pence will be dealt for payroll reasons, but if he isn’t and they want him around, he’s going to cost eight figures next year too.  That’s a lot of money for less than half of an aging roster.

But is it too much?  Maybe based on what we’re used to with baseball economics it is.  But as we’ve noted several times recently, we’re in a new era now thanks to the skyrocketing value of local TV deals.  The sort of which allowed the Angels to pay Albert Pujols what they paid him, with the difference being totally made up by the increase in their annual take from Fox.  An increase, thanks in part, to the star power that they can put on TV each night.

So, you’re the Phillies: you’re filling the house every night and, in three years, you can expect to get a windfall in local TV bucks.  If you don’t pay Cole Hamels that money and keep the team on perpetual win-now footing, are you able to reap that money?  If you do reap it, is Cole Hamels’ deal all that bad?

As is always the case, it depends on the cast surrounding him.  Is Roy Halladay beginning a decline? Is Chase Utley on his last leg? Is Ryan Howard going to level off and come close to justifying that deal?  Where is the rest of the offense going to come from?

Those are the big questions about the Phillies’ prospects going forward. The same questions they’ve always had.  The money owed to Cole Hamels, in some sense then, is not the biggest concern. Assuming he doesn’t go full-blown Zito on them, the investment in Hamels seems like the smallest risk they have.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.