The 2015 Cole Hamels trade had a lot of angles to it. Not unlike the All-Star lefty’s circle changeup, there was a lot of movement...that was perhaps easy to miss...on the corners...
In his final start with the Philadelphia Phillies, he aptly closed the book on his storied career in the City of Brotherly Love with a no-hitter. At Wrigley Field. His new home. Because he was traded once again on Thursday to the Chicago Cubs.
(The no-hitter was saved, surely enough, by a Rule 5 pick via the Texas Rangers, Odubel Herrera.)
Back in 2015, the Phillies received an extensive, six-player package for their star pitcher and reliever Jake Diekman. With three-and-a-half years remaining on his deal, the high price was paid by the Rangers.
Though it was almost the future world champion Houston Astros, but Hamels waived his no-trade clause to block a deal to Houston. Whoops.
These days, he’s set to hit the open market after the season —unless the Cubs accidentally click “yes” on his $20 million option for 2019— and coupled with his decline in performance as he ages, the Rangers were only able to fetch (former top Colorado Rockies top prospect) Eddie Butler, minor leaguer Rollie Lacy and a PTBNL.
Let’s look back on how the 2015 Hamels deal played out for the Rangers and Phillies.
The Rangers got what they paid for in Cole Hamels, albeit without reaching baseball’s promised land. Or the ALCS. But Hamels was excellent for the Rangers and made his first All-Star team since 2012 in 2016, his first full season in Texas.
He supplied over 200 innings in ‘16 but the Rangers once again fell to the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALDS.
2017 would be the first time in nine seasons he posted an ERA over 4.00, and injuries pitted him to his lowest innings count since his rookie year. Still, he was good.
2018 has been tough for the 34-year old. He’s allowed four or more runs in a start eight times and has surrendered seven run outings twice in July, certainly bad timing for his trade value.
The end to his Rangers career wasn’t pretty, and the endgame for the organization wasn’t met, but Hamels’ time in Texas should be remembered well.
Along with Hamels, the Rangers also picked up controllable 28-year old reliever Jake Diekman. Rangers President Jon Daniels likes to snag relievers when he makes big deals —Diekman here and the ill-fated Jeremy Jeffress investment in 2016 along with Jonathan Lucroy— but this one looked like a great get from the go.
The hard-throwing lefty Diekman slotted right into an important role within the Rangers bullpen. After struggling in his Phillies portion of 2015, he was dominant for Texas in the season’s back half.
He was great again in 2016, even picking up his first four career saves, but missed most of 2017 after having surgery to remove his colon, a byproduct of his lifelong battle with ulcerative colitis.
He’s back doing good things this year and will be a free agent this fall.
A little housekeeping here on Matt Harrison, who was traded from Texas to Philly as a salary dump in the deal. It’s a shame and quite an unfair ending to Harrison’s story, as he developed from throw-in in the OG Mark Teixeira trade with the Atlanta Braves to an All-Star starter.
In 2011 and 2012, Harrison was one of the Ranger’s most important players and earned his Midsummer Classic nod in the latter season. Unfortunately, serious back issues cost him everything after his big 2012 and he was dealt in 2015 to Philadelphia to relieve Texas’ financial situation. He retired at age 29.
When discussing who was the top prospect in the five-player prospect package the Phillies received, it has to be Alfaro. Everyone loves to get excited about catcher prospects, and then subsequently label them a “good pro, bad prospect” two years later.
Coming up through the farm system in Texas, he was inevitably compared to Rangers catching legend Pudge Rodriguez.
While Alfaro hasn’t become a franchise player by any means, he has become an everyday catcher with hitting ability. He was brilliant in his first full sample last year, hitting .318 with an .874 OPS in a little over 100 AB’s.
Offensive production from behind the plate is hard to find and the 25-year old is having another solid season as part of the surprise Phillies attack.
Around the time Williams was dealt in 2015, he and fellow outfield prospect Lewis Brinson were battling for top marks in the Rangers system. Brinson had the status, but Williams was making a name for himself with a toolsy year for Double-A Frisco.
He finished 2015 in Double-A Reading after switching organizations and made the jump to Triple-A in 2016. He backtracked a little, noticeably striking out 136 times in 125 games, but produced enough to keep folks excited.
Called up last season, he hit .288 in 83 big league games. He also flashed impressive leather in all three outfield spots, primarily right field, which has become his home in 2018.
Projected to be in a strict platoon with righty Aaron Altherr this season, his competition has struggled while Williams has taken advantage. He stumbled out of the gates, but the 24-year old has hit .316 in July with five home runs, now sitting at a career-high 14.
Like Williams, Jake Thompson is a Texas native and the Rangers do love them their Texas natives. I guess that’s why they traded both of them (and another I’m about to mention...)
Thompson was acquired with Corey Knebel (another Texan) in what could have been quite the steal for the Rangers. The two pitchers were acquired from the Detroit Tigers at the 2014 deadline for Joakim Soria.
Knebel departed to Milwaukee six months later (...there it is) for Yovani Gallardo and Thompson six months after him in the trade at hand.
If there’s an argument to Alfaro’s place as the best prospect in the deal, the counter would be Jake Thompson. As is the case with almost all pitching prospects, it hasn’t played out that way.
He got a sufficient trial in the Phillies rotation in 2016, starting 10 games. It was a struggle (53 hits in 53.2 innings, 5.70 ERA) but 2017 was better at the big league level, although simultaneously his worst minor league season.
In ‘17, he posted a 3.88 ERA in 46.1 innings (eight starts) in the big leagues but battled a heap of baserunner trouble. 50 hits resulted in a 1.55 WHIP, up from his adequate rookie year.
This season, he has bounced between Triple-A Lehigh Valley and Citizens Bank Ballpark, used as an emergency arm when needed. His stock is low right now, but the 2015 second round pick —actually picked two slots ahead of Nick Williams— is still 24 years young. However, he’s not quite needed right now on the big league depth chart.
With Hamels still possessing a very team-friendly, long-term contract, the Phillies were able to squeeze a lot out of Texas for their former ace. That meant two more pitchers as “throw-ins,” Jerad Eickhoff and Alec Asher.
While neither resembled a top prospect, there was still back-of-the-rotation potential for both and Eickhoff realized his in Philly.
Soon after the trade, the rebuilding Phillies bumped him to the majors to see what they had in the 2011 15th round pick. I’m curious to know if they thought it would go this well.
He dominated in eight starts and carried things over to 2016 for a full-season go of it. In 33 starts, he notched an impressive 3.65 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and finished just shy of 200 innings at 197.1.
It may have been too good to be true, as he came back down to earth in 2017. A lat strain shelved him to start 2018 and a rehab setback has kept him out. He’s expected to pitch sometime this year and the Phillies definitely want the 28-year old back, but a lot has changed in the Phillies pecking order this year.
I’m partial to Alec Asher for reasons you might guess, but he is the only prospect the Phillies got for Hamels that hasn’t stuck around.
Like Eickhoff, he also got a quick shot in the majors with Philadelphia. Unlike Eickhoff, it went poorly. After seven grizzly starts in ‘15, he was in fact spectacular in a modest five starts in 2016 but was nevertheless traded to the Baltimore Orioles in the offseason for cash.
He mostly gave the Orioles bullpen insurance in 2017, starting six games and ending up with a 5.25 ERA in 60 innings. Prior to the start of this season, he was claimed by the off waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
12 days and one Triple-A start later, in another outright attempt, the Milwaukee Brewers claimed him. The 2012 fourth-rounder hasn’t been sharp in 10 starts (15 appearances) for Triple-A Colorado Springs, but remains on the 40-man roster.
What comes next is either another attempt to clear him off the 40-man, or an invitation to the Brewers loaded bullpen.
See you in five years for the Rollie Lacy Cy Young check-in.