The Phillies have waited and waited and waited to get the best deal possible for Cole Hamels, one that could help restock an organization thin on talent in the Majors and Minors. They finally did so on Friday, consummating an eight-player deal with the Rangers.
Philadelphia sent Hamels, Jake Diekman and $9.5 million in cash to Texas for Matt Harrison and five prospects: right-handers Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff and Alec Asher, outfielder Nick Williams and catcher Jorge Alfaro.
Thompson (No. 60), Williams (No. 64) and Alfaro (No. 69) all rank among MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects. The Phils' system, which had fallen on hard times before the team began trading veterans for prospects last offseason, now has six Top 100 farmhands. Shortstop J.P. Crawford (No. 6) and Philadelphia's last two first-round picks, right-hander Aaron Nola (No. 22) and outfielder Cornelius Randolph (No. 99), already were on the list.
Thompson, 21, has been traded twice in the last year after the Tigers shipped him and Corey Knebel to the Rangers for Joakim Soria last July. A second-round pick from a Texas high school in 2012, Thompson has one of the best sliders in the Minors and pairs it with a hard sinker that ranges from 90-95 mph. Thompson has gone 6-6 with a 4.72 ERA in 17 starts at Double-A Frisco this year, with a 78-30 K/BB ratio in 87 2/3 innings.
Williams, 21, also was a second-rounder out of a Texas high school in 2012. He has one of the quickest bats in the Minors and has made huge strides with his plate discipline this year, giving him a chance to become a .280 hitter with 20 homers per season along with solid speed and defense. Williams batted .299/.357/.479 with 13 homers and 10 steals in 97 games at Frisco.
Alfaro, 22, signed for a Colombian-record $1.3 million in 2010. No Minor League catcher can beat his combination of raw power and arm strength, though his hitting and receiving skills still need a lot of polish. Alfaro hit .253/.314/.432 with five homers in 49 games at Frisco before season-ending ankle surgery in June.
Eickhoff, 25, went from a 15th-round pick from Olney Central (Ill.) JC in 2011 to leading the Double-A Texas League with 144 strikeouts in 2014. His best pitch is a 91-97 mph fastball and he'll also flash a plus curveball and solid slider. Eickhoff has spent most of this season at Triple-A Round Rock, going 9-4 with a 4.25 ERA in 18 games (17 starts) with a 107/36 K/BB ratio in 111 2/3 innings.
Asher, 23, was a fourth-round choice out of Polk (Fla.) CC in 2012. He can hit 96 mph with his fastball but usually operates at 89-93 mph, backing it up with an average slider and changeup. Asher has split this year between Frisco and Round Rock, compiling a 4-10 record with a 4.43 ERA in 20 starts and a 97/37 K/BB ratio in 107 2/3 innings.
All five prospects could arrive in the big leagues before the end of 2016. If they all reach their ceilings, the Phillies could have a No. 2 starter (Thompson), a pair of All-Star position players (Williams, Alfaro) and a pair of workhorse starters for the back half of their rotation (Eickhoff, Asher). Of course, not all prospects will fulfill their potential, but Philadelphia has a lot more building blocks than it did before the trade and also saves roughly $35 million in the difference between the commitments to Hamels and Harrison.
From the Rangers' perspective, Hamels gives them a front-line starter who's locked up through 2019 and can headline what could be a formidable long-term rotation should Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Martin Perez return to full health. Texas was able to acquire the three-time All-Star and 2008 National League Championship Series and World Series MVP without sacrificing either of its cornerstone prospects, third baseman Joey Gallo or outfielder Nomar Mazara. The Rangers' impressive prospect depth allowed them to retain Gallo and Mazara while still satisfying the Phils.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.