Four-time All-Star Cole Hamels inked a one-year, $18 million deal with the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday. Hamels gives manager Brian Snitker a seasoned veteran and a proven contender in his starting rotation.
The 35-year old spent the last year and a half with the Chicago Cubs, compiling a 3.81 ERA while going 7-7 in 141.2 innings last season. Hamels posted a 2.98 ERA before the All-Star break in 99.2 innings pitched. Injuries hampered his production in the second half of the season, as he tossed just 42 innings and posted a 5.79 ERA.
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There’s no questioning that Hamels has been one of the most reliable pitchers in the majors across his 14-year career in which he owns a 3.42 ERA. With Julio Teheran and Dallas Keuchel both free agents, it was necessary for general manger Alex Anthopoulos to bring in an experienced starting pitcher. Hamels brings production and will also help mentor the young arms in their rotation such as Mike Soroka, Max Fried, and Mike Foltynewicz.
Hamels Gives the Braves a Solid Lefty
Until Atlanta signed Keuchel in early June of last season, they didn’t have any lefties in their rotation. Keuchel did a relatively decent job once he arrived at SunTrust Park, but there’s a high chance he doesn’t re-sign with the Braves; Hamels gives the organization a reliable lefty.
The former Cub has tossed at least 150 innings in every season except for three over his 14-year career. In 2017 and 2019 he pitched 148 and 141.2 innings, respectively. Although he doesn’t throw in the mid-90s like he once did, Hamels still averaged around 91-92 mph on his heater last season.
What makes Hamels so effective despite him soon turning 36 is his ability to throw numerous off-speed pitches for strikes. In 2019 Hamels mostly relied on his fastball, while throwing his changeup 21.3 percent of the time. It proved to be his best pitch, though. Hitters posted just a .170 batting average against the offering last season. The veteran lefty throws five pitches, and with that alone, even though he doesn’t have a big fastball anymore, Hamels still keeps hitters off-balanced.
Mentoring the Young Arms
Youngsters Mike Soroka and Max Fried are showing a ton of promise, as Soroka finished second in National League Rookie of the Year voting last season.
Soroka had an outstanding rookie campaign where he put up video game numbers in what was his first full season at the major-league level. Despite his impressive year, he’s still just 22. There’s still going to be trials and tribulations along the way at the big-league level.
The same goes for Fried, who’s just 25. The two pitchers are some of the Braves most important arms, so having Hamels alongside both of them to give them pointers through rough patches, whether it’s physical or mental, will be vital.
It’s no secret that the Braves needed to add another starting pitcher. With Teheran and Keuchel most likely gone, there’s a lot of starts that need to be accounted for in 2020. Despite heading into his late 30’s, Hamels still profiles to be a number two or three starter in the Braves rotation. He has an impressive track record and can still compete at a high level, making this a beneficial signing.
He will help this staff in more ways than one next season.