July 31, 2015 — a day in which the Philadelphia Phillies fully recognized the idea of “rebuilding” a struggling ball club, shipping their home-grown ace of 10 years to the Texas Rangers in exchange for six players.
The full trade looked like this:
The Texas Rangers receive: LHP Cole Hamels, LHP Jake Diekman.
The Philadelphia Phillies receive: LHP Matt Harrison, C Jorge Alfaro, OF Nick Williams, RHP Jake Thompson, RHP Alec Asher, RHP Jerad Eickhoff.
Recently, I took a poll on twitter to gauge who the majority thought to be the most important of these six acquired players:
In the process of writing my next piece for @TheGoodPhight, so I want to know...— Alex Carr (@AlexCarrMLB) April 30, 2019
Who, in your opinion, was the MOST influential piece acquired by the Phillies in the 2015 Cole Hamels trade:
Over 1,200 of you responded, the majority siding with one Jorge Alfaro.
However, in order to truly appreciate the value of each and every one of these assets, we should break down the exact value, or lack thereof, that each piece provided the Phillies organization throughout their time with the club.
The Phillies’ Side:
The Phillies portion of this deal was loaded with proven talent, and came at a price that was considered more than affordable for such high-profile players.
LHP, Cole Hamels (MLB)
Duly considered a bonafide ace, Hamels had just signed a six-year, $144 Million extension with the Phillies in 2013, making him the ideal trade candidate for any winning ball club that was looking to bolster their rotation for years to come. The southpaw had, at that point, accumulated quite the career, totaling a 3.27 ERA over the course of 9 seasons and 1801.1 frames, punching out 1707, and posting an impressive 1.14 WHIP heading into the 2015 season.
To this day, Hamels is still pitching at an elite level. He turned in an absolutely stellar second half with the Chicago Cubs last year, and is off to a solid start in 2019 as well, sporting a 3.19 ERA over 36.2 innings pitched.
His aforementioned six-year contract is due to expire following the 2019 season, and I’m sure the bulk of the Philadelphia fanbase wouldn’t mind the possibility of reuniting with their ace of old in the 2020 offseason.
LHP, Jake Diekman (MLB)
Diekman, on the other hand, was just beginning to come into his own as a lefty stopper, totaling a 3.49 ERA over three years of work, and boasting some impressive strikeout numbers, coupled with a less impressive walk rate.
He’s been an average, if not slightly above, lefty reliever over the course of his career, and now has a home in the Kansas City Royals’ bullpen.
The Rangers’ Side:
The Rangers part of this deal, on the other hand, was stacked with highly projectable prospects, three of whom were among the Top 60 in Major League Baseball. This particular package of talent played a critical role in the Phillies’ rebuild process, and provided the organization with pieces who are still actively producing for the team today.
LHP, Matt Harrison (MLB)
Harrison was, at the time, considered a young pitcher with heaps of potential — but had concerns surrounding his health status. In 2011, he burst onto the scene, tossing 185.2 frames, and posting a 3.39 ERA. In 2012, he only improved, flashing his durability with 213.1 innings of work, and showing an even better 3.29 ERA, snagging a spot on the AL All-Star team in the process.
Sadly, after this impressive 2012 campaign, Harrison never really saw the mound again. He struggled with career-threatening back issues throughout the entirety of his Major League tenure, and, over the course of three seasons (’12-’15) only appeared in 9 games, floundering in the majority of them. In November of 2016, the Phillies released Harrison, who then bit the bullet, and decided to embrace an early retirement.
RHP, Jake Thompson (#51 on MLB Pipeline Top 100 in 2015)
Thompson was considered by many to be the cornerstone of this so called ‘blockbuster.’
He seemingly had it all — impressive velocity, an un-hittable slider, and a mix of two other pitches that were, at worst, works-in-progress. However, the Phillies have seen as recently as the struggling Nick Pivetta, that a third pitch is crucial to the development and success of any starting pitcher. This is a factor that Thompson struggled with to no end.
He spent years bouncing between the Phillies Minor League system and Major League club, desperately attempting to transcend into a ‘complete’ starting pitcher. Yet, while he attained spotted success here and there, it was never consistent enough to warrant his spot on the 40-Man roster.
In August of 2018, Thompson was designated for assignment, and now resides in the Korea Baseball Organization, where he’s stringing together a somewhat respectable start, posting a mediocre 4.41 ERA over 6 starts, but striking out 38 over 34.2 frames.
His slider is still as nasty as ever.
OF, Nick Williams (#55 on MLB Pipeline Top 100 in 2015)
Williams was also seen as a big get for the Phillies in this trade. He was raking in Texas’ Double-A affiliate, slashing .299/.357/.479 with 13 HR over 99 games, and garnering some impressive grades along the way. These included a 60-grade hit tool, as well as a grade of 55 in each of his power, run, and, to the surprise of many, fielding tools.
Williams looked to be a complete player, and, for the most part, hasn’t given his critics the chance to believe anything otherwise.
Things looked extremely promising thru his first 162 games played:
Today was Nick Williams 162nd game in the majors.— Corey Seidman (@CSeidmanNBCS) July 8, 2018
He's hit .269/.330/.464 with 23 homers and 85 RBI.
Over the course of his Major League career with the Phillies, Williams has flashed exceptional bat and power skills, while falling short in terms of his fielding capabilities. Through three years in the Majors, he’s slashed an acceptable .266/.326/.441 with a .767 OPS, with a career 30 long balls over 248 games played.
Sadly, his lacking defensive prowess, combined with the Phillies’ acquisitions over the course of the 2019 offseason, leave Williams short of a spot in Philadelphia’s 2019 starting lineup. This has many fans clamoring for a solution — the default being to ship him to another club. However, the primary detail to remember with Nick Williams is the fact that he is still only 25 years of age, and debuted at a ripe 23 years-old. This is a kid who is still developing, and should not be tossed to the sharks simply because the club has a few shiny new players to throw in the outfield.
Regardless of your stance on Nick Williams as a player, there is no denying that he was an excellent addition to the Phillies, and will hopefully be of aid to the club’s future, whether that be through trade, or simply as a threat off of the bench.
C, Jorge Alfaro (#59 on MLB Pipeline Top 100 in 2015)
In retrospect, it could be said that Jorge Alfaro was, perhaps, the most talented player included within this Texas Rangers package.
An absolute weapon behind the plate, Alfaro boasted what is now widely considered the best catchers arm in baseball, further proven by his Statcast-leading, 92.5 mph throw in 2018. The young catcher also sported a strong 60-grade power tool, which he continues to improve upon as his time in the majors transpires.
It is a well-known fact among Philadelphia fans that Jorge Alfaro was a primary trade chip in the Phillies’ acquisition of All-Star catcher JT Realmuto, and said acquisition could have played an, albeit minimal, role in the Phillies landing superstar Bryce Harper in the 2019 offseason. This reason alone makes acquiring Alfaro a worthwhile transaction for the club, and, while he is sorely missed, he’s sure to do great things with his new club, the Miami Marlins.
Thus far in 2019, Alfaro is proving a solid investment for the Marlins, slashing .288/.345/.475 with 5 home runs. This is a massive step up from his already acceptable .262/.324/.407 and 10 home runs last year with the Phillies.
RHP, Alec Asher (#25 in Phillies Organization per MLB Pipeline in 2015)
For whatever reason, Asher was considered a somewhat legitimate piece in this trade, which is shocking to say the least. He was never one to blow guys away with pure stuff — his fastball topped at 96, and he had some semblance of a good slider. However, his lack of a third pitch, and overall strikeout stuff for that matter, led to Asher getting shelled in his debut for the Phils in 2015.
Through 7 Major League starts, Asher accumulated a horrid 9.31 ERA, and, after a short stint with the Phils in 2016, he was traded to Baltimore in 2017 in exchange for cash, and has only seen the major leagues on very brief occasions since, as he now resides within the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
RHP, Jerad Eickhoff (Unranked)
Through all of the ups and downs of his career, Jerad Eickhoff has battled tooth and nail for each and every opportunity he’s received — and, after combatting the numbness in his right arm that had plagued him for going on two years, Eickhoff is finally producing consistently at the Major League level once again in 2019.
Eickhoff was, believe it or not, considered to be a throw-in at this juncture. A 15th round pick out of the 2011 MLB Draft, he’d never really shown any true signs of greatness. His projectable build and nasty secondaries certainly didn’t reflect in his mediocre minor league numbers, and he hadn’t done anything to warrant much praise otherwise.
However, later into the 2015 season, Eickhoff made his debut for the Phillies, and, to the surprise of many, posted some solid numbers. Thru his first 8 games started, Eickhoff pitched to a 2.65 ERA, and carried his success into 2016, with a full season’s ERA of 3.65.
Now that he’s back in the Show, Eickhoff will look to build upon an already promising beginning to his Major League career — and, if his start to 2019 is any indication, he’s on the right track.
The Cole Hamels trade was, put plainly, franchise altering. The Phillies received a slew of talent that is still aiding them today in their current quest for a championship — and, with enough luck, they’ll reap the benefits sometime in the very near future.