They didn’t even have to play the X.
If it weren’t for that shiny no-trade clause that allowed Cole Hamels to have the final say in the case of 20 other teams, there would have been 29 of them interested in trading for the lefthander, especially with the Phillies willing to help pay for him to pitch somewhere else.
But there were 20 that had that added hurdle, and in at least one case — Houston — Hamels apparently exercised his right to kill a deal that his club was interested at some level in making.
That left nine teams.
There were clear contenders: the Dodgers, Cardinals, Yankees, Nationals, Cubs, and Mets.
There were teams plainly looking to next year: the Braves and Padres.
And there was Texas.
Whether the others were looking for rentals instead (lower cost in prospects) or focused on different roster needs, none of those nine teams (and presumably some number of teams who were on the no-trade list but undaunted, like the Giants and Red Sox, two clubs Hamels was reportedly willing to go to despite his veto power) were able — or, in the Dodgers’ case, willing — to come up with a collection of cost-controlled talent matching what Texas put on the table.
And yet . . . .
Joey Gallo is still here.
And so is Nomar Mazara.
And Chi Chi Gonzalez and Luis Ortiz and Luke Jackson and Andrew Faulkner and Brett Martin and Yohander Mendez — and Dillon Tate and Michael Matuella.
And Lewis Brinson and Ryan Cordell and Jurickson Profar and Hanser Alberto and Yeyson Yrizarri and Michael De Leon.
And, not to be overlooked, Rougned Odor and Delino DeShields and Keone Kela and Nick Martinez and Tanner Scheppers, and Shawn Tolleson, somewhat shockingly a pre-arb guy himself.
They’re all here.
And so are Cole and Yu.
Behind whom will be Derek and Martin, and then someone from a group likely including Chi Chi and Colby and Nick and Nick. (Maybe even Yovani.)
That assumes everyone is healthy.
It also assumes Texas is done putting together its stable of 2016 starting pitchers, which is a bad assumption.
Catcher Jorge Alfaro, outfielder Nick Williams, righthanders Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff, and Alec Asher, and lefthander Matt Harrison for lefthanders Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman and an undisclosed amount of cash, believed to be between $9.5 million and $12 million.
I regularly write too much.
This time I won’t write enough.
I could write a couple thousand words each on half the pieces in this deal, but will spare you. It’s a tremendous validation of the job this organization does on the scouting and player development side, and the Phillies have to be as thrilled with the potential of this deal as the Rangers.
Texas saw Alfaro on the left side of the infielder as a teenager in Colombia, and signed him with the determination to make him a catcher. That was in 2010.
Williams was drafted in the second round in 2012, and Asher in the fourth round that same year. It was a draft that also produced Gallo. And Brinson. And Kela. (And Jameis Winston, unsigned.) And Pat Cantwell and Preston Beck and a handful of other players working their way up the system.
Eickhoff was taken in the 15th round in 2011, sandwiched between Faulkner (14th round) and Ryan Rua (17th) and Nick Martinez (18th).
Harrison came over in the Mark Teixeira trade in 2007.
And then there was Thompson.
A year and a week ago, Detroit sent Thompson and reliever Corey Knebel to the Rangers for Joakim Soria, whom Texas had signed out of the trainer’s room before the 2013 season.
Knebel (along with Luis Sardinas and Marcos Diplan) was flipped six months later to Milwaukee for Gallardo.
Thompson helped Texas get Hamels.
Think about that sequence.
There aren’t many people who get any more fired up about prospects than I do, but there are many reasons you aim to develop heavy depth on the farm, and one of them is to give yourself a chance to add a player like Cole Hamels without having to commit free agent dollars and years to do it.
According to several local and national reports, when you do the math on the cash the Phillies are including in the deal, plus their 100 percent assumption of Harrison’s contract (nearly $33 million remaining), the Rangers will effectively be on the hook for about $40 million of what Hamels is owed this year and in 2016, 2017, and 2018. In 2019, Hamels is owed $20 million, with a $6 million buyout — but it vests at $24 million if he’s healthy enough in 2017-18 to hit specified inning totals.
Boiled down, on the assumption that the Rangers wouldn’t get meaningful production out of Harrison going forward (but would still be paying for it), they appear to be getting Hamels for something like $12 million a year for the next three or four full seasons.
In the first two of those seasons, Texas will pay Yu Darvish $10 million and $11 million.
So in 2016, the Rangers will basically pay Hamels and Darvish — two number one starters — a combined $22 million. And then $23 million in 2017.
What do you think it will take to sign Jeff Samardzija, for instance, this winter?
Or David Price or Johnny Cueto or Zack Greinke or Jordan Zimmermann, who are more on the Hamels level?
And how many years will you have to commit?
Remember that Max Scherzer got seven years and $210 million last off-season.
Jon Lester got six years and $155 million.
James Shields got $75 million, Ervin Santana got $55 million, and Brandon McCarthy got $48 million, each for four years. And Rick Porcello got $82.5 million for the same term — starting next year — after extending with Boston the day before his first start this season. He’s 5-11, 5.81 in 2015.
Pittsburgh gave Francisco Liriano three years and $39 million last off-season, probably in the neighborhood of what someone’s going to give Gallardo this winter — and not far from what Texas is into Cole Hamels for.
While Hamels would probably get something between the Scherzer and Lester commitments if he were on the open market.
As for the cost in prospects, take a look at what Cincinnati and Detroit are getting from Toronto and Kansas City for two months of Price and Cueto.
Yes, the prospect haul Texas is sending to Philadelphia hurts. Some of it will hurt less with time, some could hurt more.
But this isn’t two months of Price, or Cueto, or Ryan Dempster or Matt Garza or Cliff Lee.
This is three full seasons, and maybe four, of an established number one starting pitcher, to put alongside another number one and in front of two young, high ceiling lefthanders in Derek Holland and Martin Perez, to form a front four — an extremely affordable front four — that any club would go to battle with.
And you didn’t play the X.
In part because you have a farm system deep enough that your third and fourth best prospects are more coveted than many other clubs’ first and second, and in part because, as Buster Olney (ESPN) pointed out, the Phillies “had far less leverage than expected,” especially once Detroit put Price on the market, “and were greatly boxed in by [Hamels’s] no-trade provision.”
Philadelphia bears responsibility for both — the club didn’t have to give Hamels the no-trade clause and didn’t have to wait as long as it did to move him (Jeff Passan [Yahoo! Sports]: “Two executives earlier this week said [the] Phillies should trade Hamels soon so potential Price availability doesn’t change their market. Oops.”) — and the Rangers, because of the stable of young players it has acquired and developed, were in a position to take advantage of the spot the Phillies were in.
The decisive position, as it turns out, and whether that’s because the Dodgers were instead prioritizing Price (whoops) or because they couldn’t line up with the Phillies on names outside of Corey Seager and Julio Urias, whom they reportedly wouldn’t discuss, we may never know.
Jonah Keri (Grantland) points out that Hamels has not only maintained his velocity as he’s entered his 30’s — he’s actually throwing harder now than he has in at least eight years (he touched 96 in his no-hitter on Saturday), and also missing bats at a greater rate than at any time since 2007.
Keri’s conclusion: “In short, Hamels was good, he is good, and given his combination of stuff, results, and durability, he projects to keep being good.”
According to Bob Nightengale (USA Today), Michael Young’s former Phillies teammate “was thrilled earlier about potentially going to [the] Rangers. His wife has relatives living in [the] Dallas area. Also, no state taxes.”
I could run down all the great things we all envisioned Alfaro and Williams and Thompson and Eickhoff and Asher doing in Rangers uniforms — I’ve unabashedly done it before — or I could pinpoint the limitations that some scouts red-flag, but the bottom line is the same as always with frontline prospects. They dash expectations as often as they meet projections, at best.
With his his video game raw tools, Alfaro could develop into the most electric both-sides-of-the-ball catcher since a guy who once played here for a very long time but whose name would be wholly unfair to even mention.
Or he could be Cesar King.
Williams barrels baseballs at dizzying rates with his elite bat speed, but even with improvements this year in his plate approach and defensive instincts, there remain questions as to whether he’ll continue to make the necessary adjustments to fulfill his All-Star ceiling.
But maybe he’ll be a better big leaguer than Mazara.
(There’s almost no chance Texas was going to keep all three of Mazara, Williams, and Gallo going forward, since all three hit from the left side and the big club already tilts too heavily to the left.)
Some see Thompson as a potential number two starter. Others believe the fastball-slider combination and the effort in his delivery will ultimately be more suited to late relief.
Unquestionably, he carried more value this month than he did a year ago at this time. And I’m a big fan.
But is he Colby Lewis? Or Thomas Diamond?
Eickhoff and Asher: Back of the rotation? Middle of the pen? Or swingmen whose options put them on the AAA-MLB shuttle into their late 20s?
Or will one of them turn into Kyle Hendricks, or Tanner Roark?
And then there’s Harrison.
What a warrior. The scoreless six he threw in Colorado last week was as uplifting a moment as this season has offered, given what that guy has gone through medically and put himself through to get back, when could have simply collected the guaranteed $40 million-plus he was owed in 2015 through 2018. We’re all fans and always will be. Good dude, good pitcher, bad break.
And if things get to a point at which the Phillies view Harrison as a sunk cost and cut ties before his contract expires, there will probably be a non-roster invite to come back to Texas for one last shot, and not just ceremonially.
The Phillies did well here. They were willing to eat a ton of money (both Harrison’s contract and the subsidy they sent Texas) in order to load up on talent. Jim Callis (MLB.com) believes Philadelphia might have added a number two starter (Thompson), two All-Star position players (Alfaro and Williams), and two workhouse starters for the back of the rotation (Eickhoff and Asher) — if they all hit their ceilings.
They won’t all do that, but the Phillies aren’t having to bank on just one or two players panning out. There’s quality and quantity in this trade, and Philadelphia acquired that with an infusion of cash — and three-plus years of a number one starter.
MLB.com revealed an updated list this week of the top 100 prospects in baseball, and no organization had as many as the Rangers’ eight. Texas has just moved the fourth, fifth, and sixth players on that list (Thompson, number 60 overall; Williams, 64; Alfaro, 69) to get Hamels.
But the top three (Gallo, 8; Mazara, 17; Tate, 55) weren’t touched, nor were the other two on the list (Brinson, 78; Ortiz, 100) in completing the deal.
Mike Ferrin (MLB Network Radio) tweeted: “Not sure there’s another organization that could send away that much talent and keep [its] top two bats. Testament to [the] Rangers organization.”
Of course, the only rankings that matter are the ones on the whiteboards in the front office you’re dealing with, and maybe the Phillies evaluated Thompson, Williams, and Alfaro even higher in the Texas system, and might have had Eickhoff and Asher in their own top 100 mix, even if MLB.com didn’t.
But I’m thrilled Texas came away with the most valuable trade asset on the market without having to move Gallo, or Mazara, or Brinson, or Gonzalez, or Ortiz. Especially with a number of teams (understandably) in the mix, and with the Phillies willing to kick in cash, I’m a little surprised that Mazara in particular wasn’t an insistence on Philadelphia’s part.
It just speaks to the depth in prospects that the Rangers are able to get business done with, and if most of the prospects going to Philadelphia reach their projections, that’s fine. I’d rather trade a guy too soon and see things work out for the other team than fail to trade him before it’s too late to get much value out of him, on the field or on the trade market. The last thing we’d want as Rangers fans would be for this club’s traded prospects to regularly prove to be mirages.
The Diekman piece in this trade is a bigger deal than getting Mark Lowe tacked onto Cliff Lee was five years ago. The big reliever throws 97 from the left side, combines it with a wipeout slider, and keeps the ball on the ground. Command has been an issue, and his 2015 numbers (5.15 ERA, 24 walks in 36.2 innings) aren’t pretty, but he figured some things out after an early-June demotion to AAA. Sent down with a 6.75 ERA (.292/.417/.449 slash), he spent a week in the International League and came back strong. Since returning on June 18, Diekman has held hitters to a .233/.313/.317 slash, with 20 strikeouts and seven walks in 15.1 frames (2.93 ERA).
Texas controls the 28-year-old for three seasons (via arbitration) after this one.
(I mentioned Diekman at the end of the second of the four JD-Ruben phone call reenactments. Several readers asked yesterday if I would send links out to all four of them. Here you go:
The Diekman acquisition is a quiet aspect of the trade, but it could end up big over these next three-plus years.
Is Gallardo the next to go? He’s slated to start tonight, and the non-waiver trade deadline is tomorrow afternoon. Texas stands to recoup a supplemental first-round draft pick (and the associated bonus pool money) if he finishes the season here and declines a qualifying one-year offer from the Rangers before signing elsewhere this winter. Clubs know they’ll need to offer the Rangers something today or tomorrow that’s more valuable than the supplemental first, or Texas will have no incentive to move him.
The Dodgers and Blue Jays had reportedly shown interest in Gallardo before addressing the rotation elsewhere. The Cubs and Yankees and Giants have been mentioned, and a good showing against New York tonight certainly can’t hurt, especially with today’s news that Michael Pineda is headed to the DL with a forearm strain.
Gallardo has limited no-trade protection, but reportedly said he was willing to waive it had talks progressed with Toronto. Whether he’s open to waiving it in all cases remains to be seen.
Maybe Gallardo will move on by dinner time tomorrow. Maybe the Rangers will acquire a right-handed bat. Maybe there’s something else cooking that will catch us completely off guard.
But if not, it’s been an exceptionally good trade deadline for Texas, to the extent that those can be graded right away.
It would have been fantastic if the Hamels trade happened with Texas four games up on the division rather than four games back in the Wild Card chase.
But it’s a great thing that, even in the midst of a season that hasn’t met expectations at this point, the Rangers remained aggressive with an eye toward improving the team they’ll field over the next few years. I’d rather be a fan of a team that goes for it than one that freezes up.
Texas played ball in a big way on Wednesday, and Cole Hamels is a Ranger.
As is Nomar. As is Joey.
As is Yu.
This franchise is deep enough in young talent that they didn’t have to play the X, not even for a controllable, affordable, established ace, which makes it look more and more like those X pieces are going to stay right here, eventually playing right field and third base behind a proven big league number one, and another one of those.
Yesterday’s trade was several years of exceptional scouting and player development in the making, and executed by a front office that’s as creative and aggressive as they get, and today, with the reality that Cole Hamels is a Texas Ranger settling in, the result of a move that didn’t compromise the top of the prospect inventory or set the club back financially the way that acquiring multiple years of an ace should, I’m having a hard time feeling like this was anything but an awesome opportunity to take advantage of, an opportunity that Texas alone was able to create for itself.