Rangers Acquire Cole Hamels
The Texas Rangers have acquired Phillies star pitcher Cole Hamels along with left-handed RP Jake Diekman and cash in exchange for LHP Matt Harrison as well as prospects OF Nick Williams, C Jorge Alfaro, RHP Jake Thompson, RHP Jerad Eickhoff and RHP Alec Asher.
Hamels had appeared in trade rumors going back a couple of years, with the Rangers always mentioned as a suitor. This time around the Dodgers and Astros provided the stiffest competition.
The lefthander is signed through 2018 at $23.5 million per season with a vesting option for the 2019 season. That season will be picked up if Hamels is able to A) combine for 400 IP between ’17-18 while B) pitching for 200 of those innings during the 2018 season and C) avoiding ending that 2018 season with an elbow or shoulder caused DL stint. There is a $6 million buyout on that option as well as a team option for $4 million less if the vesting one is moot. Of all this money, the Phillies will pick up $9.5 million of his salary while taking on all of Matt Harrison’s $26.4 million plus a $2 million buyout. In total the Rangers are saving $37.9M. So essentially the Rangers are only adding an additional $11+ million in payroll for three years of a proven ace and a left handed reliever.
Cole Hamels has quite a few accomplishments in his career – a 3-time All-Star who won both the NLCS and World Series MVP trophies on the 2008 championship Phillies team. In his 10th season, the 31 year old has posted sub-4.00 ERAs eight times, sub-3.50 six and sub-3.00 twice. This season the number sits at 3.64 in 128.2 innings, though the K and BB numbers (137, 39) suggest his ERA may be a bit bloated due to poor luck. All this to say, Cole Hamels is a front of the rotation pitcher – one of the most difficult roles to fill in baseball.
Coming to Texas alongside Hamels is fellow southpaw Jake Diekman. After posting ERAs of 3.95, 2.58 and 3.80 in his first three big league seasons 2015 has been rough going. The 28 year old has continued to strike batters out at a huge rate (12 K/9) but walks have been a problem for the reliever as he is giving free passes to almost six per nine. He sports an ERA of 5.15 on the year. For those who like FIP, the number sits at 3.59 indicating that Diekman may have a somewhat unrepresentative ERA due to bad luck.
The lone major leaguer going from Texas to Philadelphia is LHP Matt Harrison. While for nostalgic reasons he is more meaningful than this to Rangers fans, his inclusion in this trade is mostly as a salary dump. After fighting back from a back injury he was told he had about a 20% chance to recover from, Harrison hasn’t looked the same since his return. In his last start his fastball topped out at 88 and routinely sat in the 84-85 range. In 2015 the numbers are ugly: a 6.75 ERA, 6.01 FIP, 2.81 K/9. Owed $13.2 million a year through 2017 with a $2 million buyout at the conclusion, this is a big contract for the Rangers to get off the books. Harrison will finish his Texas career with a 4.21 ERA and 408 strikeouts in 668.1 innings pitched over eight seasons.
The headliner of this deal from the Rangers end is catcher Jorge Alfaro. He is ranked as the #5 prospect in the Texas farm system by Baseball Prospectus. Nicknamed “The Legend” by Rangers Twitter and nabbed as the future catching savior of the organization, the 22 year old possesses tools to dream on. However, questions persist about whether he will stick at catcher. After suffering an ankle injury in June, Alfaro is likely sidelined for the season. He slashed .253/.314/.432 in 49 games with five home runs before the injury. This is a high-ceiling, lowish-floor kind of prospect – one with a ceiling of an everyday catcher who can hit 25 home runs and a floor of Wilin Rosario.
The other major prospect going to Philadelphia is OF Nick Williams. Long known as a similar player to Alfaro, one with huge tools but poor approach and instincts, something clicked this year. Williams saw his walk rate jump while slashing .300/.357/.480 in 96 Double-A appearances. Baseball Prospectus pegged the 21 year old out of Galveston as the #21 prospect in baseball in their mid-season ranking. He projects as a left fielder who can hit just about his line this season if the changes stick.
The main pitching prospect changing residences cracked BP’s top 50 as well, coming in at #30. Jake Thompson was acquired just a season ago by the Rangers in the Joakim Soria trade. At that time, the 21 year old showed a 92-94 mph fastball as well as a slider that routinely graded out as a 7 on the 2-8 scouting scale. This year Thompson hasn’t shown quite the same stuff, with the fastball more in the 88-90 range and the slider down a notch. If the changeup becomes a big league pitch, the projection is a mid-rotation starter. This is the most likely outcome as the pitch took strides from 2014 to 2015. If not, Thompson could be a really useful pen arm.
There are two other pitching prospects going to Philadelphia as well – RHPs Jerad Eickhoff and Alec Asher. Eickhoff throws projects as a solid pen arm boasting a mid-90s fastball which could take a jump as he moves from a starter’s role as well as a good curve. Asher has grades as a back of the rotation starter from some scouts and as an emergency call-up from others.
This is a trade I approve of. There’s always risk when you acquire a pitcher, especially one who is past 30 on a big contract. The reward of a #1 or 2 in a rotation, at least to me, makes just about any prospect package worth it. Even a healthy crop of kids such as this.