The waiting game isn't a whole lot of fun. If you're a Phillies fan, you've probably learned that the hard way over the last year or so. The Jimmy Rollins trade took what seemed like weeks to complete after its report. Jonathan Papelbon was rumored to be traded for just about two years before the Phillies shipped him off to D.C. The wait for Cole Hamels, similar.
So if you were furiously refreshing your Twitter account, favorite message board or glued to the TV last Wednesday night, you were probably watching the Hamels trade develop in some way, shape or form. And, after about two years worth of rumors, in the grand scheme of things waiting an extra 48 hours for the whole shebang to be finished probably wasn't too bad. But it felt like an eternity.
Now that the deal has been completed and Hamels has made his first start for the Rangers and some of the guys the Phillies got back are starting to trickle onto the minor league rosters, it seems as if a full recap of the deal is in order. (Disclaimer: Your rapid reaction guys, Kiley McDaniel and Keith Law, among others, are far more connected and in the know, so don't forget to go out and read what they have said elsewhere.)
Our own John Stolnis did a great job covering things as the trade broke last Wednesday, too. So there is probably already a lot of literature on your Internets covering this deal. We'll try to do something a little different than just a prospect recap here, then.
What the Phillies did not come away with in the Hamels trade was Joey Gallo. No-go for Nomar Mazara, either. It would be interesting to know whether or not either team ever discussed a 2-for-1 or 1-for-1. Would you have traded Hamels straight up for Gallo? It seems crazy to think about giving away a franchise ace for just one guy, but who knows how badly the Rangers were protecting him? Did these talks ever happen? Who knows, but it's a fun aspect of the deal to ruminate about.
Other fun things to ruminate about... How involved was the Phillies' front office as a whole? Ruben Amaro said he was working on this deal for somewhere between six or eight months with Rangers GM Jon Daniels. Pat Gillick was probably in on the talks as well. Recently hired Andy MacPhail? That's anybody's guess, but the tea leaves, body language and quotes do seem to point to this being the work of Amaro and Gillick, with not a whole lot of MacPhail involved. We'll see if anyone speaks up about this more as time goes on.
And, how involved was John Middleton? As the new public face of the franchise, was he probably jumping up and down for joy that the Phillies were trading Hamels? He seems to have money to spend, so it might have taken some convincing to get him completely on board with the deal. If Middleton were in charge of baseball operations, he might have told everyone to buzz off, make some other deals, hold on to Hamels, and be active in the free agent market this off-season.
That became a popular opinion for many over the last few weeks. Sure, the Phillies could have kept Hamels and tried to do some maneuvering this off-season, sign a new outfielder (Jason Heyward would look pretty good out there, eh?), a couple starters (David Price, hello, just kidding, but really) and see what happened.
But, it appears the Phillies simply got an offer they couldn't really turn down, and on paper, it's hard to argue against making this deal.
The Phillies got five young prospects (plus Matt Harrison, who we'll try to get to a little bit later) for Hamels, and restocked the cupboard with more than just pitching. For all of you asking for some bats, you finally got them.
Jorge Alfaro would appear to be the centerpiece of the trade for now, but from everything we've seen from the players acquired in the trade in their game action over the last year or so, you could make the argument for others being the focal piece.
For now, we'll go with Alfaro, the power-hitting catcher. Where he'll be rated on the top prospect lists next year are anyone's guess, but Baseball America had him #67 and Baseball Prospectus had him at #31 going into the year. There's a pretty large disparity there, so MLB.com went and bridged the gap at #45. (The latter's rankings, however, have not been received very well in recent weeks, so we're going to try to go ahead and ignore them.)
The problem right now for the Phillies is that Alfaro is hurt, so they are taking a bit of a risk on him. That being said, his ankle surgery was in June, so he is on the way to recovering. He will probably miss the rest of the season, but there haven't been any known complications thus far, which is a positive.
Alfaro is 22. He is young. The injury's a concern, but at this point it's a minor one. If he does stick at catcher, which by all means he should, the Phillies were able to get a guy at a position they have been looking to solidify through trade for a good while, now. Andrew Knapp's development this year is a positive, but getting a guy of Alfaro's caliber was critical. He would probably be on track for 2017.
The other big bat in the deal was suiting up for the Rangers' AA affiliate in Frisco. Nick Williams will likely make his debut for the Reading Fightins on Tuesday, providing a big bat to the lineup. It's safe to say the Phillies have put a little pressure on Fightins manager Dusty Wathan to go pretty deep in the playoffs this September.
Williams, who will be 22 in September, is a raw talent with exceptional power. Many believe he could be a 30-homer guy in the Majors, but it's too early to project that. He is hitting .299/.357/.479 this year, and has turned himself from a bit of a hacker to a guy with better plate coverage and patience this year.
He's going to need to do that for longer to prove it's not just a blip, but opposite field power and ability to hit to all fields isn't easy to come by. It's very easy to dream about a Crawford-Williams-Franco top of the order in 2017. Williams will likely be a corner outfielder in his Major League career, as it's hard to project him anywhere else.
When we spoke of that furious refreshing of the entire Internet last Wednesday night a bit earlier in this article, plenty of it surrounded Jake Thompson. When the dust had settled on the deal, it was believed that maybe it would be only a 4-for-2 or 5-for-2 deal (depending on what people were saying about Harrison). That refreshing paid off when news trickled out that Thompson would be included in the trade.
Thompson won't even turn 22 until January, but the 6'4" righty has advanced to AA this season. The numbers haven't been glowing, as he has posted a 4.72 ERA and allowed 94 hits in 87.2 innings. But he has posted 8.0 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 rates, solid numbers for a guy at his age.
The Rangers got Thompson from the Tigers when they traded Joakim Soria to Detroit last summer, and certainly was not a guy they wanted to give away in the Hamels deal. Thompson is most likely a middle-of-the-rotation type of guy, sporting a fastball somewhere between 92-94 MPH and an above average slider. He'll have to develop the change a bit more to survive in the Majors, but there's time for that.
We'll go ahead and group the last two younger guys in this deal together, because it's probably going to be a race to see which one gets to the Majors first. Righties Alec Asher and Jerad Eickhoff have both reported to AAA Lehigh Valley. Asher started Monday night for the Iron Pigs, lasting six innings, scattering nine hits and four earned runs. Eickhoff will start Tuesday night, his 18th start of the season.
When we mean the race is on, we really do mean it. It's conceivable that both of these guys could be pitching for the Phillies in September after the season ends for the Pigs. Asher will be 24 in October, so it makes sense to push him now. Eickhoff just turned 25 in July, so ditto for him. Both guys seem to project as back end of the rotation types, but might work better as relievers in the long run. There's nothing wrong with one of these guys ending up in the pen. If there's anything we've learned, relievers are fungible and depth is essential when it comes to the Majors.
The last part of the deal is Harrison, the oft-injured lefty who has worked in just nine games over the last three seasons for the Rangers. There is a good chance this could be a total sunk cost, but the Phillies might just be hoping that he could be flipped in the near future to acquire more prospects. The chances of him being here as a long-term option are quite slim.
Back troubles have befallen Harrison, who who looked like one of the better pitchers in the league in 2011 and 2012. Nine games over three seasons is bordering on the point of being the total definition of sunk cost. Right now, he's going to have a long road back to shedding that label. Harrison started in three games over the last couple of weeks, but the Phillies are essentially convinced he's going to miss the rest of the season at this point.
Instead of paying more of the remaining $81.7 million on Hamels' deal, the Phillies opted to take on the $32 million owed to Harrison (a little over $4.7 million this year, $26 million in 2016-2017, and a $2 million buyout for 2018). The Phillies are paying about $9 million on Hamels' deal.
Two camps have divided since the deal with some saying the Phillies "flexed their financial muscle" to buy better prospects in the trade, others arguing that they shouldn't have paid anything on a team-friendly deal when you look at the Lesters, Scherzers and soon-to-be Prices of the world.
If you are fervently in one of these camps, you're going to hate this copout answer: It's probably a little bit of both. If Harrison rebounds, the Phillies will trade him immediately next summer, probably eat some more money again, and get more prospects. If he flops, it's going to be a sunk cost. Right now it's simply hard to imagine Harrison pitching in any games for the Phillies next year, but he's been a scant contributor to Major League Baseball for three years running, so it's hard to think any other way. He'll be closely watched going into Spring Training next February.
What is for sure is that if we've learned anything about Andy MacPhail over his career, he's going to try to avoid a Matt Harrison contract at all costs. Careful planning and loading up on prospects appears to be getting the Phillies out of the mess they have been in over the last four years.
The trade waiting game hasn't been so fun over these last couple of years. The prospect one should be a bit more enjoyable.