The return of Jason Hammel?


Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies traded Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Jeremy Guthrie before the 2012 season. That, shall we say, did not work out so well. Besides the fact that Guthrie was an unmitigated disaster and the Rockies gave up on him in less than a year, Hammel transformed into something like an ace for the Orioles. Shoot, he even started Opening Day for them last season.

The sting of wondering what could have been in Colorado lessened as Hammel’s remaining time in Baltimore was inconsistent and riddled with injury troubles. With it all said and done after two seasons in Baltimore, here is how his numbers shape up:

2012: 8-6, 3.43 ERA, 113 K’s against only 42 BB in 20 starts
2013: 7-8, 4.97 ERA, 96 K’s against 48 BB in 23 starts

It is clear that Hammel is still a viable starting pitcher, and so it is not surprising that the Rockies are rumored to be interested in signing him as a free agent.

There is certainly appeal in the fact that he is familiar with Colorado and pitching coach Jim Wright. He enjoyed legitimate success in full seasons with the Rockies, winning 10 games in 2009 and 2010. But there is a frightening change in his statistics from 2012 to 2013 to consider. Let’s also throw in his 2011 season with the Rockies for a point of reference. 

2011: surrendered 21 home runs in 170.1 innings
2012: surrendered only 9 home runs in 119 innings
2013: surrendered a career-high 22 home runs in 139.1 innings

This was accompanied by a significant dip in his GB% to a career low 40.1% in 2013. So the question is this: is Hammel simply a misfit for the Rockies at this point his career? Would Colorado be signing him in hopes that he will rediscover the 2012 form that might well have been an aberration at this point, especially considering his injury troubles? You essentially have to decide if you believe that his success in 2012 or his struggles in 2013 are more indicative of things to come. Sadly, and despite my fondness for Hammel, I am inclined to believe the latter.

It is rumored that Hammel is looking for three or four years in a contract. At age 31, he is unlikely to get that. This also represents a rare instance where Colorado’s philosophy to avoid adding extra years to contract offers is a good thing. Should the Rockies want Hammel back for the middle of their rotation? In a low risk scenario (one or maybe two year deal), perhaps. But it sounds like Hammel feels that he deserves to be treated like a proven commodity, and if another team is willing to pay him as such, I hope that the Rockies look elsewhere.