Thursday, July 30, 2015
MLB.com and the sports radio shows are aflame with the news that the Rangers and Phillies have agreed to a huge trade. Texas will be sending Alfaro, minor league outfielder Nick Williams, minor league pitchers Jake Thompson, Alec Asher and Jerad Eickhoff, and current Major League starter Matt Harrison to Philadelphia. In return the Phils are sending pitchers Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman, and some cash, to Texas.
This is a big trade for both teams. The Rangers are giving up some of their top prospects and the Phillies are handing over their ace who is still under contract for at least three more seasons. There are some options that might give Hamels' contract another year. Apparently the Phils are going into full rebuilding mode while the Rangers have served notice that they will be a contender starting in 2016.
What to think? The Rangers gave up a lot from the minor league system. Alfaro was supposed to be the backstop of the future and Williams is projected to be a decent center fielder. Thompson came over in the Soria trade with Detroit and has a high ceiling. I don't know a lot about Asher and Eickhoff but I think both were regarded as potential Major Leaguers. Matt Harrison is a known quantity, a gritty competitor with an inspiring comeback story. Hamels is a 32-year-old National League pitcher. NL pitchers generally struggle in the American League. Diekman is a middle reliever carrying a 5.15 ERA this year. Not pretty.
On the other hand, General Manager Jon Daniels has drafted well and the farm is pretty deep. Prospects are always a gamble (see: Profar, Jurickson) and there is no guarantee any of the minor-leaguers involved in the trade with make the Majors. Matt Harrison has battled back from his spinal fusion surgery but has yet to regain his pre-injury form and might not have a lot left in the tank. Cole Hamels is an established ace, used to carrying the title. He is left-handed and lefties tend to pitch later than right-handers. A 2016 rotation consisting of Hamels, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Nick Martinez, Martin Perez, and possibly Colby Lewis or Chi-Chi Gonzalez looks very promising. Diekman is also left-handed and might be someone pitching coach Mike Maddux can work with.
There are also two more days left before the trade deadline and Texas is shopping Yovani Gallardo. He is a free agent at the end of the season and so won't bring in the prospects Hamels took out but the Rangers could get one or two for him. They could also hold on to him until the end of the season, make a qualifying offer, and take the extra draft pick when he goes somewhere else.
All in all I think this deal makes sense. Not for this year but for 2016 and beyond. As things stand, the Rangers have their rotation set for the immediate future. If they can get the offense solidified, they will be a force in the American League West for several years. As with the Cliff Lee trade, if Cole Hamels helps the club get to one World Series, the trade will be an overwhelming success.