By Barbara Harrison

So, who are these masked men the Texas Rangers are shipping to Philly in exchange for ace lefty Cole Hamels?

The Phillies included left-handed reliever Jake Diekman in exchange for a bevy of prospects and veteran left-hander Matt Harrison. Jorge Alfaro, a top catching prospect (above), is involved. As are outfielder Nick Williams and right-handers Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff and Alec Asher, bringing it to eight players overall.

That’s a monster deal, and it’s exactly in line with what the Phillies need to do. They need to collect prospects and build that farm system up to a competitive level.

Of course, Harrison doesn’t fit that description. The 29-year-old left-hander has made only nine starts since 2012 due to back problems. He’s an injury risk, and he’s still pretty expensive, with approximately $32 million owed to him through 2018. But he does at least provide a veteran presence and if healthy could rebuild his value enough to be traded as well down the road.

Aside from that, the Phillies are receiving Texas’ No. 2 and No. 3 ranked prospects respectively in Thompson and Alfaro. Thompson is on the move for the second straight deadline after the Rangers acquired him from Detroit in last summer’s Joakim Soria trade. The 21-year-old righty has a 4.72 ERA in 87 2/3 inning at Double-A. He entered the season as Baseball America’s No. 43 ranked prospect.

Alfaro, 22, came in at No. 67 on the prospect list. He had a rough season at Double-A, hitting .253/.314/.432 with 15 doubles and five home runs before his season ended in June following ankle surgery. Still, there’s plenty of upside and the Phillies will soon need an every day catcher as the Carlos Ruiz era nears its end.

Those are the names that will be focused on two or three years down the road, but overall this is an impressive haul of prospects. In acquiring such quantity, the Phillies are also increasing the odds of getting a third and fourth valuable asset in the deal, which is often difficult to pull off. At the very least, it’s difficult to imagine Amaro finding a better deal for a team that’s years away from regaining relevance.

Amaro said he had to be blown away in order to trade Hamels this season. This certainly qualifies. But now is when his stubbornness might come back to bite him. With Hamels gone, the well could quickly run dry in terms of tradeable assets. They have outfielders Ben Revere and Jeff Francouer on the table, but they aren’t likely to fetch much. There’s Ryan Howard, but where would the demand to take on his contract come from?

There’s not another impact deal to be made unless he moves a young asset like Maikel Franco, and that will certainly factor into the length of the process.

There’s a long, winding road ahead for the Phillies, but at least they’re committed to traveling the correct road.


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