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Cubs Tue Dec 09 2014

Jason Hammel's Return Won't End in Trade

Chicago CubsProfessional athletes aren't naive. They can look at a roster just as easily as you can, and make a pretty good guess at how well the team is going to fare. They're probably going to be more accurate in their assessment too. When Jason Hammel agreed to a one-year deal with the Cubs for the 2014 season, he knew precisely what he was getting into.

The best case scenario for him came to fruition: a stellar start to the season made him a key cog in the Cubs acquisition of consensus top three prospect Addison Russell. Chicago offered Hammel a rotation spot and an opportunity to show what he can do when healthy, and in return, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer were able to sell high and add a highly valuable prospect. They parted ways on amicable terms, with Hammel even telling the media he wouldn't be opposed to returning.

Hammel's deal with the Cubs is two years at $9 million per season, with a team option of $12 million for a potential third year. If the Cubs decline the option, Hammel will receive a $2 million buyout, so the deal essentially guarantees him $20 million with a $30 million ceiling. There's word on the street that Hammel can void the team option, but only if he meets incredibly high standards in the final guaranteed year of 2016 (probably a high Cy Young finish or World Series MVP award).

The Cubs have been targeting starting pitching in this market, and were the first team to strike on the secondary tier. They didn't wait around for Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, or James Shields to sign on the dotted line, and they were rewarded with what appears to be a really team-friendly deal.

If they don't add anymore starters this offseason, Jake Arrieta would top the rotation going into 2015, with Hammel slotting in behind him, followed by Travis Wood and Kyle Hendricks. Tsuyoshi Wada, Edwin Jackson, Felix Doubront, Jacob Turner, Eric Jokisch and Dan Straily would all be battling for a final rotation spot, and the runners-up would either be tagged with long-relief duty, or waiting in Iowa for an injury. It would stand out as a rotation with a ton of depth, but it's all quality over quantity. They still need another starter, and the front office is well aware of that.

This deal with Hammel is for the Cubs to win now. They want him to be in the middle of a rotation they hope can compete at the top of not only the NL Central, but the National League as a whole. The corner has been turned, and Hammel's deal is proof of that. Even if the Cubs struggle in the first three months of 2015, Hammel will be sticking around. Though his contract would be easily tradable, the expectations have hit a point of no return for the North Siders.

Is Jon Lester next? We'll hopefully find out today.

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