CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Cubs are gambling a change of scenery will help Cole Hamels return to form.
The Cubs acquired the veteran left-hander and cash from the Texas Rangers on Friday for right-hander Eddie Butler, minor league pitcher Rollie Lacy and a player to be named.
Hamels is in the midst of perhaps the worst year of his career, going 5-9 with a 4.72 ERA in 20 starts with last-place Texas. He is just 1-3 with an 11.12 ERA in four starts in July.
But the 34-year-old Hamels is an experienced playoff pitcher with a history of success at Wrigley Field. He was the NL Championship Series and World Series MVP when Philadelphia won the title in 2008. He is 7-6 with a 3.48 ERA in 16 career postseason starts.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon was in Tampa Bay’s dugout when Hamels led the Phillies past the Rays for the championship 10 years ago.
“He’s been pretty good. I’ve not liked him for a long time,” Maddon cracked after Chicago’s 7-6 victory over Arizona on Thursday. “He’s pitched some really big games against teams I’ve been involved with and he’s done really well. He’s a great competitor, got good stuff. But he just competes and he knows what he’s doing out there, so I’d have to rank him as a pretty competent major league left-handed pitcher.”
Hamels’ locker was cleaned out and his nameplate was gone when the media entered the Texas clubhouse following the Rangers’ 7-6 loss to the Athletics on Thursday night.
“He was a great teammate, a guy who was good here in the clubhouse, a good teammate,” Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos said. “He was a good player. Everybody’s going to miss him.”
Butler will join the Rangers during their series this weekend in Houston. Lacy, an 11th-round pick in last year’s draft out of Creighton, was assigned to Class A Down East.
Butler is 1-1 with a 4.08 ERA in eight appearances this year. He was activated from the 60-day disabled list Tuesday after being sidelined by a right groin strain.
Hamels is 3-1 with a 1.76 ERA in six career starts at Wrigley. The San Diego native struck out 13 while pitching a no-hitter at Chicago’s iconic ballpark in his final start with the Phillies in 2015. He was traded to Texas six days later.
The Cubs are on top of the NL with a 60-42 record entering Friday night’s game at St. Louis, but they haven’t received much length from their starting pitching. All-Star Jon Lester and Mike Montgomery, who began the year in the bullpen, have been their most consistent performers.
Yu Darvish, who signed a $126 million, six-year contract in February, is on the disabled list with a right elbow impingement and inflammation, and it’s unclear when he might return. Tyler Chatwood, another free-agent pitcher who signed with Chicago over the winter, leads the majors with a whopping 85 walks in 94 innings.
Jose Quintana was winless in June, but the Colombian lefty is showing signs of coming around. He is 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in his last three starts.
Quintana was acquired in a costly trade with the crosstown White Sox last July that included touted prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease. The Cubs emptied their once rich farm system on the way to three straight NLCS appearances and a historic championship in 2016, hurting their chances of making a major trade this year.
The deal for Hamels is their second trade with Texas in the past couple weeks. Jesse Chavez was acquired in a July 19 trade for a minor league pitcher, and the veteran reliever pitched five scoreless innings over his first four appearances with Chicago.