Could the Cubs Return on Hammel Be More than Expected?

After the Cubs were outbid on their off-season target and decided to go with ‘Plan B,’ the first thought when Jason Hammel signed his contract was that he would be flipped before the July 31 trade deadline. The signing of Hammel was viewed the same as Paul Maholm two years earlier and Scott Feldman the winter before. And hopefully Chris Bosio would be able to get Hammel back on track so the front office could turn a short-term asset into long-term pieces to add much-needed inventory to the system.

Jason Hammel is reportedly on the Blue Jays’ radar (as well as other teams) as a short-term solution for their starting pitching needs. After all, Toronto would not have to pay as much for Hammel because he is a rental that does not have the same perceived value as a Jeff Samardzija or a David Price. And the general thought is, the Cubs would take a nice package of prospects in return for Hammel, but nowhere near what the front office is expecting in return for Samardzija.

But could the Cubs actually receive a package similar to the one the front office acquired from Texas last July for Matt Garza?

Ken Rosenthal thinks the Blue Jays should trade for a pitcher, like Jeff Samardzija or David Price, and add a home run hitter to their rotation. Rosenthal brought up the concern within the game that the last two pitchers the Cubs traded to an American League team did not fare as well in the Junior Circuit as they did in the National League. Jason Hammel has the all-important experience in the AL East, and while it was not that good, he was hurt and he says he’s healthy … and the numbers back up his words.

Peter Gammons was added to the list of reporters that thinks there is still a chance the Cubs will try to re-sign Jeff Samardzija and not trade him. If that is the case, Jason Hammel would be the Cubs biggest trading chip this summer. Gammons pointed out how good Hammel has been this season and said to “remember what the Cubs got for Matt Garza last summer.”

The immediate thought was there is no way the Cubs could receive anywhere near the package of players for Hammel as they did for Garza. After all, Jon Daniels is already regretting that trade and Matt Garza is a much-better pitcher than Jason Hammel.

Outside of his outing Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, Jason Hammel has been very good this season. So good in fact, Alec Dopp questioned on the Daily Gammons if Hammel was the best signing of the off-season, outside of Nelson Cruz. Hammel has pitched extremely well, with the exception of a few hiccups, which appears to be Rick Renteria’s new favorite word.

Jason Hammel was coming off two-injury shortened seasons in Baltimore before he signed with the Cubs and made a total of 43 starts in two years after dealing with a forearm injury and a right flexor mass strain. In 46 appearances with the Orioles, Hammel was 15-14 with a 4.27 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP (259 hits allowed in 257 1/3 innings with 209 strikeouts and 90 walks). Hammel was reportedly looking for a three-year contract and as many as 12 teams were thought to be interested in signing Hammel before he agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Cubs worth $6 million that included a $1 million incentives package based on innings pitched.

Before he took the hill Wednesday night after a long rain delay, Hammel had not allowed a run over his previous two starts (14 innings) while issuing one intentional walk over the same span.  And the last time he gave up a home run was April 22 (52 2/3 innings). Jason Hammel has been very good on a team with a better than average pitching staff that hasn’t figured out how to win close ballgames (8-21 in games decided by two runs or less).

In 13 starts this season, Hammel is 6-4 in 13 starts with a 2.81 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP. Hammel has given up 64 hits with 18 walks and 76 strikeouts in 83 1/3 innings. Hammel has hit five batters and served up six home runs while recording a quality start in 10 of his 13 games.

Matt Garza missed only one start during his first season with the Cubs then spent the next two years dealing with arm injuries. Garza made 49 starts for the Cubs in 2011 and 2012. During those two seasons, Garza was 15-17 with a 3.52 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. In 301 2/3 innings, Garza gave up 276 hits with 95 walks and 293 strikeouts. Garza was 6-1 in 11 starts last year leading up to the trade with a 3.17 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. Garza gave up 61 hits in 71 innings with 20 walks and 62 strikeouts. Garza, for the sake of comparison, hit four batters and served up eight home runs while posting a quality start in seven of his 11 games.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will be looking for pitching in return for Jason Hammel. And they might be willing to discuss a deal with Alex Anthopoulos for Hammel that included young arms such as Daniel Norris, Roberto Osuna or Sean Nolin. So while it is still doubtful the front office could land four players for Jason Hammel with the same upside as what the Cubs received for Matt Garza, the numbers back up what Peter Gammons pointed out. And Jason Hammel might just be worth more to a contending team than his perceived value.

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