CLEARWATER, Fla. — Surely, you've noticed it. Cole Hamels has acted and talked like a very confident man. Almost too confident.
Hamels will soon be a rich man, this much is sure. But as players inch toward free agency, sometimes nerves will dominate. What if I'm hurt? What if I flop?
The Phillies leave Florida on Sunday, and it's almost certain Hamels will return to Philadelphia without a new contract. But the two sides have engaged in negotiations, and it's impossible not to think optimistically about a union when you listen to Hamels speak.
Hamels and his agent, John Boggs, have refused to put any deadline on contract talks. But once the season starts, and Hamels is that much closer to free agency, does anything change?
What is your gut feeling about the Phillies?
"No," Hamels said. "My only understanding is if you sign anybody before opening day, you have to deal with the luxury tax. So that's the only thing I know of. Anything after goes toward next season. I understand that's where the Phillies are."
That used to be the case, according to a baseball source. But in the new collective bargaining agreement, the timing of a player's new contract has no affect on average annual value (AAV). The yearly monies against the luxury tax cap are based upon the AAV. Hamels is locked into $15 million for 2012. In the past, some deals were affected by that.
Still, it's interesting Hamels would mention an unprompted detail like that. Boggs was involved in a similar situation before. Last season, one of his clients, Adrian Gonzalez, signed a seven-year deal on April 16 with Boston. The parameters were discussed in spring training and it was not signed until then to avoid further tax penalties.
Hamels said he could not categorize the current negotiations between Boggs and Ruben Amaro Jr., but one baseball source said the two sides are closer than they were at the start of spring training.
"I don't know," Hamels said. "It's all in Ruben's hands. If I get in good shape and I play, the Phillies will make offers, and we'll counter until things look the way they need to look."
There was increased chatter about Hamels this week, not only because spring training is nearing an end, but also with the sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers to Magic Johnson and his ownership group for $2.15 billion.
Hamels, of course, is from California. And the Dodgers will be looking to make a spalsh with their new cash this winter. What was Hamels' reaction?
"I didn't know Magic Johnson knew anything about baseball," he said.
Hamels said he talks to Boggs once every two weeks. Typically, they'll discuss his golf game or his family.
"I haven't been thinking about it at all," Hamels said. "It's going to be one of those things that lingers until something happens."
But the way Hamels speaks, it sounds as if he knows more than that.
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