Hamels signs with Braves: 'I wanted to play on a contender'

It may be a couple of years late, but the Braves finally got their man, signing free agent pitcher Cole Hamels to a one-year, $18 million contract Wednesday. The team had interest in Hamels in the past, but this time general manager Alex Anthopoulos acted quickly to secure the veteran left-handed starter who won a World Series MVP with the Phillies in 2008.

"Truthfully, when it really came down to it, I wanted to play on a contender," Hamels said via conference call. "It's something where I was very familiar with the Braves, obviously watched them in the post season and I have seen what they've been able to create, so I've always been following them in hopes of maybe having an opportunity to pitch with some of those guys because they have such good, young talent."      

Hamels says the Braves were one of six teams he was following and rooting for in the playoffs. The 35-year old confirmed that he had interest in other teams, including the Phillies and Giants, but the Braves were the first to show willingness to discuss a deal that was in an acceptable range to Hamels and his representatives.

"We had interest in Cole at the 2018 trade deadline when he went to the Cubs, we thought we had a real good shot at getting him then." said Anthopoulos. "It made a lot of sense for us. You're betting on the person, on the human being, the work ethic, he takes tremendous care of himself... We think he's got a chance to pitch at a high level for a long time."

Hamels said he didn't speak directly with any current Braves players before making his decision, but he did rely on information from former Phillies' teammates Jeff Francoeur and Ryan Howard, who both spent time as Braves players- Francoeur currently works as a broadcaster on the Braves TV and radio networks.

"Those were kind of the guys that were giving me the 4-1-1 on the team and they just had tremendous things to say. Plus, I have the utmost respect for (Freddie) Freeman. I played against him, I know his personality and I do enjoy that. I've played against (Nick) Markakis for a long time and for him to want to stay back-to-back years really tells me a lot about what he sees, and that really excites me," said Hamels.

Hamels joins Mike Soroka, 22, Max Fried, 25 and Mike Foltynewicz, 28, as the Braves' probable top four starters. Anthopoulos said recently that left-hander Sean Newcomb, who spent most of the 2019 season in the bullpen, will be given a chance to win a starting job in spring training. Among other contenders for the final spot in the rotation will be Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson and Ian Anderson, one of the team's top prospects.

Hamels spent the last two seasons with the Chicago Cubs, going 7-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 27 starts last season. Hamels has 163 wins and a 3.42 ERA in 14 seasons. He began his career with Philadelphia, where he was a three-time All-Star in 10 seasons. He finished fifth in the NL Cy Young Award voting for the Phillies in 2011, when he was 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA. He was 17-6 with a 3.05 ERA in 2012.

Atlanta has given left-handed reliever Will Smith, a possible closer, a $40 million, three-year contract and added catcher Travis d'Arnaud for a $16 million, two-year deal.  Atlanta also has re-signed four players: outfielder Nick Markakis, catcher Tyler Flowers and relievers Darren O'Day and Chris Martin.