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Revisiting the Cole Hamels Trade

Did the Phillies get enough for their World Series MVP?

Revisiting the Cole Hamels Trade

 

The Phillies were in the midst of a rebuild and were looking to accelerate it with some prospects by trading away one of their last big trade chips. The Rangers were gearing up for a run in the postseason and were hoping to secure the AL West crown by shoring up their rotation. Granted, the Rangers sat at 50-52 at this time, so some fans considered the team to be looking towards next season. But with several aging starters – Shin-Soo Choo, Prince Fielder, and Adrian Beltre – the team needed to maximize its chances at contention. The two teams were a natural fit for a trade.

The Phillies were looking to deal away long-time rotation stalwart Cole Hamels, who had finished 8th in Cy Young voting in the year prior (2014) and had pitched well up to the trade deadline in 2015, holding a 3.64 ERA and 3.27 FIP. Hamels was 31 years old and was in the midst of a 6 year, $144 million contract – paying him an average of $22,500,000 — that extended at least through 2018.

Hamels had been consistently excellent, never posting a FIP above 4 in all his time with the Phillies. At this point, Hamels was a 3-time All-Star and had finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting 4 times. So, Hamels was set to command a strong haul of prospects, despite his relatively older age and large contract.

The Rangers had the farm system to complete this kind of trade. Their farm’s “crown jewel” at the time was Joey Gallo, the 15th-best prospect in baseball, according to BP. But they also had 6 players appear on the BP Top 101 prospects, including players like Nick Williams, Chi Chi Gonzalez, and Lewis Brinson. The Rangers were hoping to hold onto Gallo, but they had others to offer the Phillies when the trade deadline approached.

So, the teams got to work on hammering out a trade, which was completed on July 31st, 2015. The Phillies were sending Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman to the Rangers for Matt Harrison, Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, Jake Thompson, Alec Asher, and Jerad Eickhoff.

Interestingly enough, Cole Hamels – in his final start with the Phillies – threw his first ever complete no-hitter on July 25th. Hamels shut out the Cubs, walking two but striking out 13 Cubs batters to claim the no-hitter. Hamels outdueled the future 2015 NL Cy Young Winner Jake Arrieta in that game. It was not Hamels’ first no-hitter, as he was part of a combined no-hit effort in 2014, in which he threw 6 innings and then for the 7th inning handed the ball off to fellow trade candidate Jake Diekman.

First, let’s evaluate the Hamels and Diekman side of the trade. Hamels continued his strong season in 2015, going 7-1 with a 3.66 ERA (3.79 FIP) after being traded. Diekman was also strong after being moved, pitching in 26 games and accumulating a 2.08 ERA (3.70 FIP) with the Rangers. He pitched for the Rangers for roughly 4 seasons, appearing in 150 games and accumulating a 3.18 ERA (3.60 FIP) during his career with the team. He has found himself on a few different teams since the Rangers, but some of his best years thus far have been in his 4 seasons in Texas.

Hamels pitched well during the 2015 regular season, but also appeared to have a positive effect on the rest of the Rangers clubhouse once he arrived. Manager Jeff Bannister spoke highly of Hamels just days after he joined the Rangers, saying “This is a guy with so much integrity, character, and leadership.” Hamels’ acquisition also coincided with a scorching Rangers playoff push, as the team went 38-22 (.760) in August and September to claim the AL West title in the final days of the season.

Hamels pitched in the AL Division Series that year, pitching in Games 2 and 5 for the Rangers. In fact, he is responsible for the team’s loss and the runs from the runners on base in the 7th inning.

Beyond 2015, Hamels continued to pitch well, racking up yet another sub-4 FIP season in 2016. In 2017, Hamels was still serviceable, although his 4.62 FIP was his worst in his 12 MLB seasons. Hamels was once again traded at the deadline in 2018 to the Cubs for some more prospects. So, in 4 seasons with the Rangers, Hamels racked up 546 innings, a 3.90 ERA and 4.38 FIP, 1 All-Star selection, and netted prospects on his way out. All in all, that’s not too shabby for a guy who was entering his mid-30s when the Rangers acquired him. Hamels is still in the majors currently, having signed a 1-year deal with the Braves prior to the 2020 season.

So, we know that Diekman and Hamels were both strong acquisitions. But what about the Phillies side of the trade? This trade (in addition the Ken Giles trade) was supposed to help set up the Phillies for their future.

The Phillies acquired several BP Top 101 prospects in the deal. Jorge Alfaro (#3 in Rangers system), Jake Thompson (#5), and Nick Williams (#7), were all in the BP top 101. Jerad Eickhoff wasn’t far behind. Alec Asher was in the Rangers’ top 20 and also showed promise. Matt Harrison was a throw-in, as he was still recovering from back injuries that had wiped out his most of his 2014 and all of his 2015 season thus far. Harrison retired in 2016 after having never thrown a pitch for the Phillies.

But how did each of these prospects turn out? Alec Asher made his debut for the Phillies on August 30, 2015, and pitched in 7 games in that season, racking up a 9.31 ERA and 6.75 FIP. In 2016, Asher again pitched with the Phillies for a short time, throwing 27 innings but accumulating a far better 2.28 ERA and 3.33 FIP. However, Asher was suspended in June of 2016 for taking a performance-enhancing drug. Asher was traded to the Orioles in 2017, where he pitched in 60 innings and held a 5.25 ERA and 5.26 FIP. He had one more chance with the Brewers in 2018 but couldn’t hack it and was released by the Brewers. Asher appears to have been what people call “AAAA” players – above average in AAA, but not good enough to start or play regularly in the MLB.

Jorge Alfaro, the highest-ranked prospect in the trade, was a polarizing player. In 137 games with the Phillies across 2017 and 2018, Alfaro hit 15 home runs and slashed .270/.327/.401. But Alfaro also held a BB% just above 4% and held a K% above 30%, each of which rank in the bottom 25 among all MLB players. But Alfaro’s real value for the Phillies may have come in the trade for J.T. Realmuto. The Phillies dealt Alfaro and Sixto Sanchez along with Will Stewart and an undisclosed sum of international bonus money for Realmuto, who has been fantastic for the Phillies thus far (5.5 bWAR across 2019 and 2020) and will be hitting free agency shortly. Alfaro ultimately generated 2.0 bWAR across his seasons with the Phillies.

Nick Williams, another BP Top 101 prospect, burst onto the scene with the Phillies in 2018, slashing .288/.338/.473 and hitting 12 home runs across 83 games and 313 at-bats. Williams was unfortunately unable to replicate his success in subsequent seasons and was designated for assignment by the Phillies in August 2020. Williams was responsible for -1.8 bWAR during his time in Philadelphia.

Jake Thompson was mediocre at best during his time with the Phillies, accumulating a 4.87 ERA and 5.80 FIP across 116 innings and 3 seasons. Thompson signed a contract with the Lotte Giants and played in the KBO in 2018, but then returned to the minor leagues in July 2019 and now currently resides in the Angels’ organization as of January 2020.

Jerad Eickhoff pitched in part of 5 seasons with the Phillies, making his major league debut after the Hamels trade in 2015. Eickhoff pitched 440 innings with the Phillies, holding a 4.15 ERA and a 4.39 FIP across his Phillies career. He racked up 6.0 bWAR across those 5 seasons in Philadelphia.  Eickhoff signed a minor league deal with the Padres for the 2020 season but was released in August.

Now that each of the players have finished their time with the Phillies, let’s look at the team WAR totals for both sides. In Texas, Hamels and Diekman together generated 14.0 bWAR (10.9 for Hamels, 3.1 for Diekman). In Philadelphia, Williams, Alfaro, Thompson, Eickhoff, Harrison, and Asher combined for -0.1 bWAR (-0.4 for Asher, 0.3 for Thompson, -1.8 for Williams, 2.0 for Alfaro, -0.2 for Eickhoff, 0 for Harrison).

That’s an incredible difference in value for the two teams. Granted, the Phillies were likely going to “waste” Hamels’ remaining years of the contract and it made good sense to trade Hamels when the Phillies did, but they got a whole lot of nothing in return. The Phillies probably wouldn’t have been able to trade for Joey Gallo, but just Gallo for Hamels and Diekman would be almost dead even right now in terms of bWAR (9.3 bWAR as of September 8, 2020). Some of it turned out well for the Phillies, as they were able to use Alfaro to get JT Realmuto, but this one appears to have a clear winner.

Photo courtesy of Blevine37 at the English language Wikipedia | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

Adam Sloate

Die-hard Angels fan since birth; misses the good ol' days of Vladdy, Kendrys, and Weaver. Temple University alumnus, UCLA Law student.

  • NickFolesMVP says:

    Pain.

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