And while Hamels will still be eligible for a final round of arbitration after the 2011 season and free agency after 2012, the three-year deal gives the Phillies cost control on their best starting pitcher. Hamels' salary won't escalate too rapidly -- $4.35 million in 2009, $6.65 million in 2010, $9.5 million in 2011 -- and the Phillies may be able to keep their core players and make three more runs at the World Series before tough-to-sign 1B Ryan Howard becomes a free agent after the 2011 season.
Hamels went 14-10 with a 3.09 ERA last season. Most important, though, he made 33 starts and finished second in the NL with 227 1/3 innings, proving he can stay healthy over a full season. In the playoffs, Hamels was nearly unhittable, going 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts.
--RF Jayson Werth has observed the relative economic slowdown in this year's free agent landscape. Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn, outfielders with accomplished resumes, are still looking for work. Even Manny Ramirez remains unsigned. So, Werth agreed to a two-year, $10 million contract extension with the Phillies that will cover his final season of arbitration and what would've been his first year of free agency. He will make $3 million in 2009 (including a $1 million signing bonus) and $7 million in 2010, the same salary Pat Burrell will make this season after signing as a free agent with Tampa Bay.
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. called the two-year deal "a little bit of a leap of faith," considering Werth has never gotten more than 418 at-bats in a season because of injuries. But with Burrell's departure, Werth is the Phillies' top right-handed power threat. And if he can get at least 550 at-bats, the Phillies believe Werth can hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases.
Werth, 29, reached career-highs with 24 homers, 67 RBIs and 20 steals last season.
"I have always said, 'What kind of damage can I do with 600 at-bats?" Werth said. "Staying healthy this year, I'm going to get that opportunity. I definitely think I have something to prove. Free agency is definitely a big part of the game, but I'm excited to even have the opportunity to get a multiyear (deal) and have a little bit of security."
--RHP Ryan Madson sat in his New Jersey home with hard-bargaining agent Scott Boras and discussed his future. The conversation kept coming back to one word. "Security," Madson said, recalling the November meeting. "That's the biggest thing. That's what we wanted, to set up some college funds for the kids, buy a nice house out (in his native California) and be done with it." So, although Madson would've been a free agent after the 2009 season (and Boras usually advises his clients to test the market), the reliever signed a three-year, $12 million contract extension to stay with the Phillies through at least 2011.
Boras told Madson that another strong season could make him an attractive closer candidate for several teams in 2010. Madson aspires to be a closer, but mostly, he wants to play a "significant role" in a championship contender's bullpen. And during the Phillies' World Series run, he emerged as their primary setup man by allowing one run in September and posting a 2.13 ERA in the playoffs.
Madson will make $3 million in 2009 (including a $1 million signing bonus), $4.5 million in 2010 and $4.5 million in 2011. "If (free agency) is going to be, it'll happen when the time is right," Madson said. "I don't see how anybody can be underpaid at $4.5 million, but if I'm underpaid, then being underpaid isn't a bad thing."
--INF Nomar Garciaparra continues to draw interest from the Phillies as a right-handed hitter off the bench. But Garciaparra, nagged by injuries over the past three seasons, hasn't committed to playing in 2009. Last season, he batted .264 with eight homers and 28 RBIs in only 55 games for the Dodgers. "In his mind, he's still trying to figure out if he wants to deal with the grind of a season," Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "We're looking at three or four other guys. We can't be held hostage by Nomar."
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, one of those players is OF Moises Alou. But Amaro said the 42-year-old Alou likely is looking for more playing time than the Phillies are willing to guarantee.
--LHP J.C. Romero's 50-game suspension will wait until after the World Baseball Classic. Romero, who was suspended after testing positive for a substance banned by Major League Baseball's drug policy, has been cleared to pitch for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic in March as long as he passes a drug test administered by the International Baseball Federation.
SS Jimmy Rollins, CF Shane Victorino and LHP Cole Hamels were included on Team USA's 45-man provisional roster, although Hamels has informed manager Davey Johnson that he won't be participating in the tournament. OF Matt Stairs (Canada), C Carlos Ruiz (Panama), C Ronny Paulino (Dominican Republic) and RHP Carlos Carrasco (Venezuela) also were included on provisional rosters, although Amaro said Ruiz likely will decline the invitation and remain in the Phillies' spring training camp.
BY THE NUMBERS: 153 -- Home runs hit by 1B Ryan Howard over the past three seasons, more than any player in the majors. Howard also leads the majors with 431 RBIs over the past three seasons.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I knew it had to be stressful just because of the media attention (Ryan Howard) was generating. I don't want that pressure. I really don't. I don't want it to take away from what we go to spring training for, and that's to get ready for the season. I just knew that's not what I want to do. I don't need the extra stresses of that process." -- LHP Cole Hamels, who signed a three-year, $20.5 million contract extension, on why he didn't want to go through arbitration with the Phillies.