Welcome to another edition of Ruben Tuesdays: A weekly look back at the greatest moves made by the Phillies’ former general manager Ruben Amaro. In this edition, I’ll talk about the time the Phillies needed more starting pitching, and Amaro turned to the Astros to add another ace to the rotation.
The Third Ace Arrives
I want to make it clear that these moves are being judged based on their individual merits. I know that many of you are already itching to point out that this particular trade might not have been necessary had the Phillies not traded away an ace pitcher before the 2010 season began. Keep in mind that in July 2010, what was done was done, and Cliff Lee wasn’t coming back. (Or, at least he wasn’t coming back at that particular point in time.)
The Lee-less rotation was headed by Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, but things got ugly after that. After his fantastic rookie season, J.A. Happ had spent most of the year on the disabled list, Joe Blanton was pitching poorly, Jamie Moyer had a fork in his back, and Kyle Kendrick was pitching like Kyle Kendrick.
In past years, the Phillies had overcome such problems with their explosive offense. But the 2010 Phillies were not the same offensive juggernaut that we saw in past seasons. If they wanted to make the playoffs - they were behind the Braves in the standings at the time - they’d likely need to improve their rotation.
Amaro decided to call up his old boss Ed Wade who was running the show in Houston. Since the Astros were undergoing a major rebuilding process, Amaro wanted to see if Wade would be interested in trading away his ace pitcher. Wade was indeed amicable, and for the price of Happ and two minor leaguers, Roy Oswalt became a Phillie.
The Halladay-Hamels-Oswalt trio was given the nickname H20, and they kept the Phillies’ playoff hopes well hydrated. The team went 10-3 in Oswalt’s starts, although his most memorable moment might have come away from the pitching mound.
The team went 41-19 after Oswalt’s arrival, and quickly erased their deficit in the National League East. By season’s end, they were in front by 6.5 games and had earned a major league best 97 wins.
The following season, the fourth ace was (re-)added, and thanks to their uber rotation, the Phillies won a franchise record 102 games. I remember remarking at one point that the Phillies third and fourth best starters (Hamels and Oswalt) wouldn’t have seemed out of place if it was a match up on Opening Day.
The trade was not without a price. Happ eventually developed into an All-Star starter, although it took him five years and three more teams to really find himself. As for the prospects included in the deal, outfielder Anthony Gose played parts of five seasons in the majors, but never made much of an impact. He is now attempting to make a comeback as a pitcher. Shortstop Jonathan Villar looked like a potential star in 2016 , when he recorded a 3.9 WAR season, but has taken a step back the past two seasons.
While the Phillies weren’t able to make it to the World Series in either of Oswalt’s seasons with the team, the trade did help the Phillies lead the majors in wins for two straight seasons, and should therefore be considered a success.