Matt Klentak has made his first big trade as general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phils have agreed to deal their 25-year-old fireballing closer, Ken Giles, to the Houston Astros in exchange for four players, pitchers Vincent Velasquez and Brett Oberholtzer, outfielder Derek Fisher and right-hander Thomas Eshelman.
Make no mistake, this is a ballsy move by the new young GM. It's not every day a rebuilding team trades a 25-year-old home grown talent on the rise. But in Giles, the Phils saw a player who could net them three or four more young players, improving themselves in multiple areas in the process.
Look gang, this is going to be unpopular with some people. "Why are the Phillies trading away someone I know for a bunch of people I don't know?" That's a common refrain in times like this, and it's one of the reasons previous regimes headed by Dave Montgomery and Bill Giles never would have made a move like this.
But the Phils took their best commodity, a closer on a team destined to lose 90+ games this season, and turned him into four additional pieces.
So, what about the four new faces that will be joining an already stacked Phils farm system?
VINCENT VELASQUEZ - PITCHER
Velasquez is the headliner of the group. In 19 games (seven starts) for the Astros last year, he posted an ERA of 4.37 with a FIP of 3.46 in 55 2/3 innings. He struck out 9.38 batters per nine innings and walked 3.40 in his small sample size with Houston.
He throws hard, averaging 94.6 mph on his fastball, relying on a curveball as his best secondary pitch. He'll also throw a changeup and slider once in a while as well. Here he was in his Major League debut last year.
He has an electric arm, and although the Phils will certainly start off using him in the rotation (either in the Majors or in Triple-A to start the season), it's possible he could one day fill the role left by the departing Giles.
Just talked to an AL exec who thinks that if the Phillies shift Vincent Velazquez to the bullpen, he could be "just as good as (Ken) Giles"— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 10, 2015
Clearly, that's not why the Phils are making him their primary piece, but it's a possibility down the road.
DEREK FISHER - OUTFIELD
I'll bet you didn't know Fisher was talented enough to re-make his career as a baseball player in his 40s, did you?
Fisher is a 21-year-old outfielder who played in Single-A this season. He put up good numbers, slashing .275/.364/.483 with 22 homers, 21 doubles and eight triples in 569 plate appearances. He strikes out quite a bit, tallying 132 last year, but also walked 66 times.
And while he's an upside play for the Phils here, there are some who think the kid has a future.
Derek Fisher is a very high upside prospect with some risk. Can really run but can't play CF. Just getting to his power. Mixed views on hit.— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) December 10, 2015
Derek Fisher was going to rank at back end of Astros top 10 or just off the top 10 of course that is a very deep top 10.— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) December 10, 2015
He's not someone who's going to join the Phils anytime soon, and given all the talent there already is in the outfield in the Phils' minor league system, there's no rush.
The Phillies also now have a lot of OF bats with Herrera, Altherr, Williams, Quinn, Fisher, Randolph, and soon Goeddel— Matt Winkelman (@Matt_Winkelman) December 10, 2015
You can see why the Phils aren't too keen on signing Jason Heyward to a 10-year, $200 million deal. As for Fisher, he's a long way from the Majors, and he's no sure thing. But there is some definite promise there, and likely sneaks in as one of the team's 10 best prospects for 2016.
BRETT OBERHOLTZER - STARTING PITCHER
Listen, I'm not going to sugarcoat this one. Oberholtzer is just a guy, someone to provide some depth in the rotation and farm system. Last year was shortened by injuries, limiting him to only eight starts (38 1/3 innings), in which he went 2-2 with a 4.46 ERA.
The left-hander, still just 25 years old, has made 42 career starts for the Astros, with a career ERA of 3.94 and a FIP of 3.72. He's not a strikeout guy, whiffing 5.9 batters per nine during his career, while walking 2.1. He does give up a lot of hits, nearly 10 per nine innings over his career, and he doesn't throw hard, averaging just 88.6 mph on his fastball last season.
Think of Oberholtzer as a Kyle Kendrick or a David Buchanan, someone to start the season in Triple-A and ride the Pennsylvania Turnpike every few weeks when a pitcher goes down or a long reliever is needed.
THOMAS ESHELMAN - PITCHER
Here is what the guys at SB Nation's Astros blog The Crawfish Boxes says about him.
His fastball sits in the low-90s, occasionally hitting 93, with a few decent breaking balls mixed in. He won't blow hitters away with his stuff, but the command he's show against good competition makes him a valuable pick at this point. Eshelman has the polish to move quickly through a system and slot into the back end of an MLB rotation.
Eshelman was Houston's second round pick in last year's draft.
Meanwhile, the Astros get a sorely-needed stud closer in Giles, someone who will bring the heat out of the bullpen in a way no one else could for Houston in 2015.
The #Astros threw 1 pitch this year 99 MPH... It was Vincent Velasquez who was traded for Ken Giles. Giles hit 99 MPH+ 37 times.— Daren Willman (@darenw) December 10, 2015
And who moves into the closer's role for the Phils? It will obviously be an open competition in spring training, with the leading candidates likely to be Luis Garcia, who finished up 2015 as the set-up man, or newly-acquired David Hernandez, who just signed a one-year, $3.75 million deal with the Phillies.
At the end of the day, this is a move that makes a lot of sense for both teams. Houston doesn't give up anyone that won't miss too terribly, and the Phils get a nice haul back for a pitcher they really liked but didn't have a lot of use for this season.