The Cubs appear finally made their move to acquire a starting pitcher, agreeing in principle with Jason Hammel on Friday. Hammel pitched for the Orioles in 2012 and 2013 after spending three years in Colorado. Jeff Passan has the details.
Sources: Jason Hammel's deal with the Cubs is for one year. Should fall somewhere in the $6M range. Really nice sign. Could be Feldman 2.0.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 31, 2014
The deal isn't very expensive, as the Cubs appear to have bought into the evidence that free agent prices tend to go down near the end of the offseason. While he isn't a great pitcher, at least we don't have to worry about Ubaldo Jimenez imploding early-on in a long-term deal or watch 30 starts from Chris Rusin. And, as SVB points out, he can't possibly be any worse than Scott Baker was last year. At the same time, I'm not sure I prefer Hammel to someone like Chris Capuano, whose asking price appears to be almost identical to Hammel's.
Performance and Pitch Repertoire
Hammel has had a pretty bland career. In 2009 and 2010, he was a reliable option for the Rockies, posting average-ish strikeouts and excellent walk rates. In 2011, for whatever reason, his peripherals dropped off the map. In 2012, he bounced back in a big way, posting a 3.43 ERA for the O's. He appears to have adopted a sinker that season which generated a ton of groundballs (53% vs. 45% career). He also started mixing his pitches more, the slider in particular, and his K-rate was also a career high. Unfortunately, he had right knee problems, and only made 20 starts. In 2013, his velocity was down from 2012 levels, he stopped missing bats, and he used his sinker progressively less over the course of the season, possibly because it was hurting his elbow. He missed a few starts, but an MRI showed only inflammation. The Cubs have to be hoping that the elbow is OK, and that he can get back to what made him successful in 2012.