Phils, Astros agree to Giles deal
Four players, including Velasquez and Oberholtzer, headed to Philly
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Ken Giles could become one of the elite closers in baseball, but at the moment, he is a luxury for the rebuilding Phillies.
Multiple sources told MLB.com on Wednesday night that the Phillies and Astros have agreed to a trade that would send Giles to Houston for four players: right-handers Vincent Velasquez and Thomas Eshelman, left-hander Brett Oberholtzer and outfielder Derek Fisher. The clubs have not confirmed the deal, which is pending physicals.
No announcement is expected Thursday.
Folks at the Winter Meetings like the four-player package that Philadelphia could receive from Houston, if the trade is finalized.
MLBPipeline.com ranked Velasquez, 23, as the No. 69 prospect in baseball and the No. 4 prospect in the Astros' talented farm system in July. He went 1-1 with a 4.37 ERA in 19 appearances (seven starts) with Houston last season. Velasquez has the talent to be a No. 3 starter or a dominant late-inning reliever, like Giles.
Oberholtzer, 26, went 2-2 with a 4.46 ERA in eight starts. He is 11-20 with a 3.94 ERA in 45 appearances (42 starts) in his big league career. Oberholtzer could be in the Phils' Opening Day rotation.
Fisher, who the Astros selected in the first round of the 2014 Draft, ranked eighth among prospects in Houston's system. He will become the No. 8 prospect in the Phillies' system. Fisher hit a combined .275 with 21 doubles, eight triples, 22 home runs, 87 RBIs and an .847 OPS in 123 games with Class A Quad Cities and Class A Advanced Lancaster. He is projected as an everyday left fielder.
No pitcher in the history of college baseball threw more strikes than Eshelman. He led NCAA Division I in walks per nine innings as a freshman (0.2), sophomore (0.6) and junior (0.5) at Cal State Fullerton, establishing new records for a single season and a career (0.4). Eshelman projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
The Phils and Astros have been discussing a Giles trade for some time, but talks picked up at this week's Winter Meetings and escalated Wednesday.
There are plenty of reasons why the two teams have worked hard to strike a deal.
First, flipping Giles, who might pitch 65 innings per season, for three pitchers who might pitch 200 innings in a season in the future makes sense. That seems especially true considering the Phillies are not expected to contend for the next couple of years, and closers are far less expensive than starters and much easier to replace. Consider J.A. Happ's three-year, $36 million contract and Jeff Samardzija's five-year, $90 million contract as evidence of the starting-pitching market for middle- to back-end starters.
Plus, the Phillies also acquired a potential everyday player.
The Phils signed right-hander David Hernandez to a one-year contract Wednesday, likely in preparation for this trade. He has late-inning experience and is immediately a candidate to close games in 2016.
"It was a priority for us to add someone to the back of our bullpen who has pitched in high-level situations in the past," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said about Hernandez. "Throughout the last couple of months, we've been adding a lot of depth to our bullpen. Many of those players don't come with a lot of experience. So we wanted to make sure that we added at least one player who added a lot of experience who could help to pitch in the late part of the game."
Houston had young talent to offer Philadelphia. The Phillies and Astros agreed to a Cole Hamels trade in July, which Hamels rejected. But the Phils were familiar with Houston's talent at the Major League and Minor League levels as a result of their work there last summer.
Giles, who had a 1.80 ERA and 15 saves in 17 opportunities as the Phillies' closer last season, fetched such a quality return because of his success and the fact he isn't set to become a free agent until after the 2020 season.
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
The Phillies do not have a ready-made replacement for Giles. If Philadelphia does not add a more qualified reliever, a combination of Hernandez, Luis Garcia and Jeanmar Gomez could handle the ninth inning. Because the Phils are unlikely to generate a multitude of save chances in 2016, they may not produce a mixed-league-worthy reliever.
After splitting time between the rotation and bullpen across 55 2/3 innings in his Major League debut last season, Velasquez could be a rotation staple with the Phillies. With a lifetime 10.8 K/9 rate in the Minors, the right-hander has the upside to be a mixed-league asset. But Velasquez may not be shallow-league relevant in 2016, when he will look to harness his skills with a rebuilding club that plays at an offense-friendly park.