The Orioles’ list of pending free agents includes right-hander Jason Hammel, who made $6.75 million in 2013.
What’s he worth in 2014?
You could argue that the Orioles have gotten one really good half-season out of Hammel in the two years that he’s spent in the organization following his arrival from the Rockies.
Hammel was 8-5 with a 3.47 ERA in 17 starts before the 2012 All-Star break, and was named a finalist for the MLB Fan Vote in the American League. But he later went on the disabled list with a knee injury that required surgery and limited him to two starts in September.
Hammel was 0-1 with a 3.09 ERA in the second half, failing to win a game after June 22. On that date, he was 8-2 with a 2.61 ERA and generated early All-Star and Cy Young talk.
Fast-forward to this season. Hammel never seemed quite right, though generous run support enabled him to start out 7-2. He went 3-1 in May, but posted a 6.44 ERA in five outings, with 41 hits allowed in 29 1/3 innings.
We found out later that Hammel was pitching with occasional forearm soreness since spring training. He was placed on the disabled list on July 31 with a right flexor mass strain.
Hammel didn’t win a game after May 27, going 0-6 with a hold and a save. However, he was pretty sharp in two relief appearances against the Blue Jays and Red Sox to end the season, allowing one run and five hits in 4 1/3 innings, with no walks and five strikeouts.
“He was the perfect guy for Camden Yards,” said Hall of Famer and current MASN analyst Jim Palmer. “He kept the ball down, kept the ball in the ballpark. But then we didn’t see that guy anymore.”
Was it a health issue? First the knee, then the forearm.
Hammel is 15-14 with a 4.27 ERA in 46 games (43 starts) with the Orioles. He went 8-6 with a 3.43 ERA in 2012 and 7-8 with a 4.97 ERA this year.
Left-handers batted .203 against Hammel in 2012 and .300 in 2013.
If the Orioles knew they’d get the 2012 first-half version of Hammel, who turned 31 in September, they’d probably make a stronger push to keep him. And they’d probably be outbid for him. We all know their limits when it comes to long-term deals for free agent pitchers.
In his Orioles debut, Hammel carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Twins. The last pitcher to toss seven hitless innings in a team debut was Hideo Nomo, who no-hit the Orioles in 2001 while a member of the Red Sox.
Hammel joined Jim Palmer and Jay Tibbs as the only Orioles pitchers to allow two runs or fewer in their first six starts of a season. He also went 17 consecutive innings without permitting an earned run. No Orioles pitcher had made consecutive starts of eight innings or more in the same season without allowing an earned run since Scott Erickson in 1997.
Hammel also tossed the 33rd one-hitter in franchise history on June 16, 2012 in Atlanta. Mike Mussina was the last Orioles pitcher to register a one-hit shutout on Aug. 1, 2000 versus the Twins.
That’s the pitcher who would command big bucks as a free agent. But what about now?
Hammel could settle for a one-year deal, prove he’s healthy and re-enter the free-agent market. We’ll have to see how it plays out.
Palmer mentioned $8 million as a possible figure.
“Eight million is a lot of money, but it isn’t a lot of money,” Palmer said. “You’re investing in a one-year deal.”