Sources also said the Cubs will trade left-hander Drew Smyly to the Texas Rangers. This was an intriguing move at the time as "Smiles" missed all of 2017 due to an elbow injury that caused him to undergo Tommy John surgery in July.
Originally selected by the Tigers in the second round of the 2010 June draft out of the University of Arkansas, the Little Rock native has a career record of 31-27 with a 3.74 ERA over 156 games/85 starts with Detroit (2012-14) and Tampa Bay (2014-16) spanning five major league campaigns.
The Rangers likely will face Hamels on opening day next season. He also had $6 million in potential bonuses for 2019, and a $7 million actual salary.
After a disappointing season that ended with a loss in the NL Wild Card Game, the Cubs are looking for the most cost-effective ways to rebound in 2019. Hamels was the savior the Cubs' rotation needed; while other normally reliable starts Jon Lester and Jose Quintana faltered at the end, Hamels was also solid as can be and had outings that were instrumental to the Cubs winning those games.
Hamels, who was acquired by the Cubs in a pre-deadline trade with the Rangers in July, went 9-12 with a 3.78 ERA in 32 starts overall in 2018. (This way, the Cubs have a net salary gain of $13 million to retain Hamels, and the Rangers essentially are paying $1 million for Smyly.) But declining that option would've put Hamels on the open market and created uncertainty for the Cubs, who had expressed the importance of bringing Hamels back. The option is worth $20 million, not $19 million.
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Theo Epstein and company got creative. Regardless of who else the Cubs acquire, their current roster is already playoff-caliber as everyone expects them to be atop the National League once again next year.