The Texas Rangers just made the blockbuster trade of the 2015 season sending five top prospects, headlined by Jorge Alfaro, and Matt Harrison to Philadelphia for 3-time All-Star Cole Hamels and left-handed reliever Jake Diekman. Philly gets outfielder Nick Williams; righty’s Jake Thompson, Jared Eickhoff, Alec Asher; and of course top catching prospect Alfaro.
So what does this mean for the Rangers?
As it sits, the Rangers are currently eight games out of first place in the West and four games out of the Wild Card spot. Nobody doubts the resiliency of this team, but it’s looking more and more like they aren’t a team that would be in contention this season, though all of that can change at the drop of a hat in baseball.
The Rangers made this trade for next season and the seasons after. Hamels is signed through 2018 with a team option for 2019. This gives them a great 1-2 punch with Darvish and Hamels for the next few years and a few options to fill out the rest of their pitching staff.
So let’s take a look at the pitching options for the 2016 season and beyond.
Essentially, the Rangers pitching rotation could look like this: Yu Darvish, Hamels, Martin Perez/Derek Holland and Chi Chi Gonzalez/Nick Martinez. Colby Lewis is signed through this season only, but would more than likely take another deal to stay in Arlington. That’s seven pitching options just right there and that doesn’t include what could happen in free agency in the offseason.
Speaking of free agency, Yovani Gallardo is a free agent at the end of this season and has been the talks of trade rumors (whether that comes to fruition before Friday’s deadline remains to be seen). Depending on how the rest of the season plays out for him (is 7-9, 3.19 ERA, 1.319 WHIP and 6.2 SO/9 this season), Gallardo could be looking at a payday, or if Texas is lucky, could return to the team on a friendlier deal. Let’s hope he takes a hometown discount, considering his hometown is less than 20 minutes from Globe Life Park. Gallardo could easily slot in as the Rangers fourth pitcher and would give the rotation a formidable boost.
Before the Hamels deal, the Rangers were, and still are to a degree, cash strapped with massive contracts belonging to Elvis Andrus (signed through 2022 with $118 million left) and Shin-Soo Choo (signed through 2020 with $102 million left). With Texas sending Harrison and the rest of his contract (signed through 2017 with a team option and roughly $26 million left) to Philly plus Philly kicking in money for Hamels contract, it gives the Rangers some wiggle room to perhaps sign Gallardo to a long-term deal or seek out some of the other pitching free-agents-to-be in the winter.
Now Texas’ potential starting lineup could consist of a healthy mixture of Darvish, Hamels, Perez/Holland, Gallardo/Chi Chi/Martinez and/or Lewis. And let’s not forget about Chi Chi. The Rangers did not include the young right-hander in the Hamels deal, which was huge. In fact, the Rangers kept all three of their biggest pitching prospects (well, other than Jake Thompson) from shipping off to Philly.
Chi Chi, Luis Ortiz and top five 2015 draft pick Dillon Tate (drafted fourth overall) are all still a part of the organization. Tate isn’t in any official rankings yet, but ESPN’s Keith Law published a piece recently putting the young hurler right in the mix of the Rangers top 10 prospects. An argument could be made that even without Jake Thompson, Texas is still loaded with good, young depth and options.
This Hamels’ deal is about the future and the future still looks bright.