By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) The newest Cub to be announced as a part of the 2015 rotation feels the team was lucky to get ace let-hander Jon Lester.
Jason Hammel officially signed his two-year, $20-million contract on Friday that will bring him back to Chicago, where he pitched with the Cubs for the first half of 2014 before being traded to the Athletics. Hammel talked about the advantages of having a staff led by Lester, who earlier this week agreed to a six-year, $155-million deal the Cubs.
“His proven consistency over eight or nine years of dominance, there is no reason why he shouldn’t get the money,” Hammel said. “They probably got him pretty cheap. I know Theo (Epstein, president of baseball operations) did not want to hear me say that, but the guy is a winner. He is a proven winner, and for a young team, you need guys like that who know how to come around and know how to go about their business.”
Hammel, 32, was traded to Oakland along with Jeff Samardzija on July 4 for three young players, including Addison Russell, the fourth-ranked minor league player at the time. Hammel was a combined 10-11 with a 3.47 ERA last season (8-5, 2.98 ERA with Chicago). He will be slotted in the third or fourth rotation spot, depending on any other offseason moves the Cubs make to solidify their pitching staff.
It’s a rarity when a player is traded from a team in one season and returns the next year.
“When Theo told me he was moving me to Oakland, it was bittersweet,” Hammel said. “I knew that this was the place for me. Theo made good on his promise to call me on the first day of free agency, telling me he wanted to be the first call. We went from there.”
Hammel said he probably left more money and years on the table from somewhere else in order to come back to Chicago.
“This is not just Schtick or flash,” Hammel said. “The Cubs are making a commitment to winning here. I can t predict the future, but this should be a very dominant rotation. You win championships with pitching. Offense helps,(but) the teams that go (to the playoffs) have dominant pitching.”
Hammel said his family loved the Chicago experience the first time around.
“The intangibles of coming back is something that made me and my family comfortable,” he said. “It made me happy. I do feel like this is my family away from my family — my Cubs family.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.