10:30pm: Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets that the Rangers will receive two pitchers for Hamels in addition to the PTBNL. Lacy will indeed head to the Rangers, though Wilson hears that the second pitcher is “not a prospect.” As he notes, it’s unclear whether that means the Cubs are sending a Major League player or if that’s merely a means of indicating the pitcher to be of low upside.
9:56pm: Passan reports that the Rangers will receive Lacy and a player to be named later in exchange for Hamels (Twitter link).
Lacy didn’t rank among the top 30 prospects in a thin Chicago farm system on today’s updated Top 30 rankings from Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. That said, he’s in the midst of a terrific season in the minors so far and has performed similarly well since being selected in the 11th round of the 2017 draft.
Lacy has pitched to identical 2.45 ERAs in both 2017 and so far in 2018, and he was recently moved from the Class-A Midwest League to the Class-A Advanced Florida State League. In a total of 80 2/3 innings this year, he’s averaged 10.5 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9 with a ground-ball rate north of 60 percent. The 23-year-old Creighton product is only just now starting to face older competition, but his results to date are certainly encouraging.
7:41pm: The Cubs and Rangers are in agreement on a trade that will send Cole Hamels from Texas to Chicago, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News (via Twitter). Multiple reports had indicated that the two sides were making progress on a deal, as was first indicated by Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports adds the ever-important caveat that the trade is pending medical reviews (Twitter link).
Earlier today, Sherman reported that the Cubs were willing to take on about $4MM of the roughly $14MM still owed to Hamels ($7.98MM of his $22.5MM salary plus at least a $6MM buyout on next season’s $20MM club option). Sherman and others have suggested that Chicago will send lower-level prospects to Texas in return, and The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney had pointed out that Class-A Advanced right-hander Rollie Lacy was scratched from tonight’s start for Chicago’s Myrtle Beach affiliate, though it’s not yet clear if he’s headed to the Rangers as part of the return for Hamels.
The 34-year-old Hamels isn’t the ace that he once was, and he’s had his share of struggles in 2018 — albeit nearly all of them coming at his homer-happy home stadium in Arlington. Hamels is surrendering home runs at a career-worst rate, but it’s somewhat telling that 16 of the 23 round-trippers he’s yielded have come at Globe Life Park. Hamels has a 6.41 ERA, a 6.16 FIP and a 4.49 xFIP when pitching at home this season but a 2.93 ERA, 4.17 FIP and 3.83 xFIP on the road.
Early in the season, there was some concern over a decline in Hamels’ velocity, but he’s regained nearly all of the lost zip on his heater — an encouraging sign for he Cubs, who’ll hope that a move to the National League and a more pitcher-friendly stadium will improve Hamels’ results. Starting pitching wasn’t supposed to be a significant concern for Chicago after spending a combined $164MM to sign right-handers Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood this offseason. Unfortunately for Theo Epstein & Co., Darvish has been hampered by triceps injuries throughout the season, while Chatwood has alarmingly walked more hitters than any pitcher in baseball.
It’s not clear exactly how Hamels will fit into the Chicago rotation, but he’ll surely be guaranteed a starting job. Mike Montgomery has stepped up beautifully with Darvish on the disabled list and may very well have forced Chicago’s hand in keeping him in the rotation. Then again, Montgomery has also been effective as a reliever and could help to strengthen the bullpen if it’s him, not Chatwood, who is dropped to a relief role. Alternatively, the Cubs could simply look to deploy a six-man rotation consisting of Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks, Hamels, Montgomery and Chatwood — though they’d certainly need to shuffle that arrangement when Darvish returns from the disabled list.
The Cubs currently sit about $14MM south of the $197MM luxury tax threshold, so there’s still room for the team to add even after acquiring Hamels — especially if it proves accurate that Chicago is only taking on about $4MM of salary in the deal. Chicago already added right-hander Jesse Chavez to its bullpen in a separate swap with the Rangers, but they were also linked to bigger-name relief targets in recent days, including Zach Britton and Jeurys Familia. Each, of course, has since been traded elsewhere, though it stands to reason that the Cubs will continue to monitor the market for bullpen help now that they’ve fortified their rotation a bit.