Phillies sign Cole Hamels to $144M deal

PHILADELPHIA - July 25, 2012

"It's very hard to leave a place that you've had so many great memories and be able to enjoy so much good to come. You don't want to miss it and not be a part of it," Hamels said at a news conference on Wednesday.

The agreement takes Hamels through the 2018 season and includes an option for the team to extend the contract to 2019 and a limited no-trade provision. It also means Hamels will no longer become a free agent at the end of this season and also ends speculation about the star pitcher possibly being dealt by the July 31st Major League Baseball trade deadline. Hamels' name had been mentioned frequently in recent weeks in possible deals with several teams - most notably the Texas Rangers who are in dire need of starting pitching help.

"We felt like it was the right thing to do under the circumstance with his performance, his age, his importance with our club," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said

Hamels has said recently that he wanted to stay in Philadelphia, not only for the immediate future but for the rest of his career, emulating a childhood idol, Tony Gwynn, who spent his entire Hall of Fame career in the uniform of Hamel's home town San Diego Padres. Hamels proved true to his word, despite suggestions by many observers that the pitcher could have gone home to any of several west coast teams as a free agent next season.The truth is Philadelphia has become Hamel's home as an adult. He is among the minority of team members who lives in the city year-round with his family. Hamels and his wife, Heidi, are active in local, national and international charity efforts, most notably though The Hamels Foundation which provides for support for struggling schools.

Hamels is a so-called "home-grown" ball player, having been originally signed by the Phillies and whose path to the majors was entirely within the Phillies' organization. Hamels was taken with the 17th pick in the first round of the 2002 amateur baseball draft by the Phillies out of Rancho Bernadino High School where he was a gifted student with high SAT scores. He overcame a couple of injuries (including a broken hand suffered in a bar fight prior to the 2005 season) to rise quickly through the minor leagues, making his major league debut in 2007. Hamels was 15-5 that first season with a 3.39 ERA. Hamels' ERA has been even better in all but one of his six seasons in the majors.

The highlight of Hamels career came in 2008 as he led the Phillies to the World Championship and was named Most Valuable Player in that season's World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The pitcher's decision comes amid the Phillies worst season during the Hamels' era. Despite a high payroll and last year's team-record 102 wins, the club has stumbled under the weight of injuries and poor play, and is mired in last place in the National League's east division, 9 and 1/2 games behind in the Wild Card race. Hamels has been one of the bright spots, going 11-4 with a solid 3.23 ERA in 19 starts.

Getting Hamels signed was General Manager Ruben Amaro's number one priority as the trade deadline approached. But the GM may not be finished his work. Teams including the Pittsburgh Pirates have expressed interest in center fielder Shane Victorino, a free-agent to be, and the rumor mill, always lively in the days before the deadline, has churned-up the names of Hunter Pence, Placido Polanco and even Hamel's fellow ace, Cliff Lee, as possible trade chips. Looking ahead to next season, the Phillies will likely have holes to fill, most notably at third base, the outfield and on the pitching staff.

Meanwhile, the players are focused on the present, doing their best to convince their GM that the group in place now is a winner. The Phillies are 7-4 since the all-star break, including three-straight come-from-behind wins, the sort of victories that were commonplace during the team's five straight division title seasons.

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