The Phillies get two top 100 prospects in return, three other prospects and veteran lefty Matt Harrison. But the Phils also get catcher Jorge Alfaro and right-hander Jake Thompson, with Alfaro ranking No. 49 and Thompson just missing the top 50.
By Sam Bush
The Cole Hamels era is over!
After Robin Roberts, who lit up the sky for the Whiz Kids in 1950 and was the best home-grown pitcher in Phillies history, there was Hamels.
Hamels was traded to the Texas Rangers Wednesday night, and he immediately makes them better now and for next year, but at a price that pushes the Phillies’ farm system forward significantly.
The Rangers are four games out of the second wild-card spot, seven out of the top slot, and would have to pass at least six other teams to make the playoffs. So while Hamels helps them this year to the tune of probably a win and a half or more of added value, the real boost is for 2016 and beyond, when the Rangers project to be a better club and could roll out a rotation of Hamels, a healthy Yu Darvish, a healthy Martin Perez and Chi Chi Gonzalez.
Hamels’ no-hitter aside, he’s among the best left-handed starters in baseball, with a 80-grade changeup, a solid-average fastball and an above-average cutter, as well as a slow curveball that has been more effective this year.
He throws strikes and he’s missing more bats this year than in any season since 2007. Even if his velocity slips as he gets older, he has all the ingredients — the incredible changeup, the assortment of pitches, the control, the feel for pitching — to remain just as effective deep into his 30s. He was the most valuable trade asset on the market this summer, and in acquiring him and erratic lefty specialist Jake Diekman, the Rangers had to pay highly — but kept their top two prospects, Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo, plus high-upside center fielder Lewis Brinson.
The Phillies get two top 100 prospects in return, three other prospects and veteran lefty Matt Harrison; Harrison has thrown just 43 innings since 2012 but is owed $28 million. The main dishes here are catcher Jorge Alfaro and right-hander Jake Thompson, with Alfaro ranking No. 49 in my last update and Thompson just missing the top 50. Alfaro, who is out until at least the Arizona Fall League due to a severe ankle injury, has an 80-grade arm and 80 raw power, but has shown very little improvement in his plate discipline over the past few years and has to be more willing to work the count to get to that power in games. He has the tools to be an above-average receiver and framer, but hasn’t always put the required work into the task.
Thompson was acquired last year for Joakim Soria from Detroit, and has struggled a little bit in Double-A this year, but he’s only 21 years old, built like a workhorse already, with an average to above-average fastball and plus slider. He should come right to Double-A Reading and joins a surprisingly good stable of arms in the upper levels of the Phillies’ system, along with Aaron Nola, Jesse Biddle and Zach Eflin.
Jerad Eickhoff might be a back-end starter or a middle reliever; he’s a strike-thrower with a low-90s fastball who should at least remain a starter for now because he has shown the durability and potential repertoire for it. Alec Asher has arm strength and control, but is probably a reliever due to the lack of secondary stuff or fastball life.
Nick Williams has had a tremendous year at the plate for Double-A Frisco at the age of 21, with good bat speed and above-average raw power, but I still have serious concerns about the approach, the poor pitch recognition, and the below-average instincts in the field. Williams walked just 20 times in nearly 500 PAs last year, and outside of a little burst of patience in May, he has gone right back to his old ways. He’s physically gifted, however, and should be able to play above-average defense in an outfield corner while hitting for average and power. Maybe he has the hand-eye coordination to get away with an impatient, undisciplined approach; he definitely has the bat speed to hit a major-league fastball, so much so that the bat might be out of the zone too quickly. I believe, based on numerous times seeing him play, that he’ll perform below what his tools would lead you to expect, but his performance to date, especially this year, says otherwise.
Ultimately, the Phillies got two highly regarded but flawed position player prospects, a high-probability starting pitching prospect who has a chance to be a solid No. 3, and a pair of depth arms. That’s a good mixture of quantity and quality for Hamels, exactly what they should have tried to get in this franchise-altering opportunity.