Is the old third-sacker crazy? Maybe. My guess is Ensberg, who works as a roving instructor for the Astros’ farm system might just be a tad tied to these young players he’s obviously spent time grooming. So maybe Ensberg just doesn’t want to see some of his hard work go to another team.
But trading a handful of prospects for an ace — well, that’s what it takes these days. Heck, Houston’s been on the receiving end of those trades, trading middling young pitchers such as Mike Foltynewicz and Jarred Cosart for other teams’ prospects. So, this is obviously the price of doing business. And Hamels — in spite of his price tag — is a quality arm. Imagine a rotation of Hamels, Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh and Lance McCullers Jr. plus whomever.
It’s not like Houston hasn’t traded for an ace before. Remember the Randy Johnson deal? Great deal, right?
Well, I’d be Ensberg would say no. And, honestly, I kind of agree with him. Because, frankly, a deal like that flies in the face of the Luhnow Plan.
On July 31, 1998, the Astros picked up The Big Unit for Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen and John Halama. In 11 regular season starts, Johnson went 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA. He posted a 4.3 WAR in those 11 starts. It was amazing. Unfortunately, in two post-season starts, despite his 1.93 ERA, Johnson picked up two losses against the Padres and never wore an Astros’ cap again.
Meanwhile, the Astros gave up two quality young arms, one of whom was an All-Star, and an All-Star shortstop. Meanwhile, Houston gave up players with a combined career WAR of about 69, with Seattle getting the benefit of about 43 WAR from the trio.
Seattle got 10 times the benefit that Houston did out of the deal. Sure, the Astros got Randy Johnson and had a chance to go all the way. But that chance evaporated with Kevin Brown‘s slider, and Houston mortgaged the future for a witch with some magic beans. Imagine those early 2000s teams with Guillen at short. What would the 2004 Astros — or the 2005 Astros! — have done with a shortstop of his offensive caliber? Or with Garcia in the rotation.
The Astros traded one chance in 1998 for two chances — 2004 and 2005, if not more — to get Johnson.
Different, But Not Different
So, Hamels is a bit different. He’s already signed through 2018, so Houston would get at least three full seasons (he’s got a team option in 2019) of Hamels if they got him in a trade. Not worrying about the money because Philly would probably pay part of his salary — plus, it’s only money — Hamels is probably worth about 4.5-5.5 WAR a year, That’s about what he averages through his career. He’s 31 now, so hopefully his production will hold through his age 34 season. To Get, You Must Give
In total, with the half season they’d get him for 2015, the Astros would get about 19 WAR out of Hamels. Maybe 24 WAR if they pick up that option year.
But what’s the cost? In 24 games, Tucker has picked up about a half WAR. Over a season, that’d be maybe 3 WAR. Add in Santana or maybe Phillips. I’m guessing one is probably worth what Tucker might be worth. Murphy’s Law what it is, I’m sure we’d give up the two best WAR players for Hamels. Maybe add Chris Devenski or Josh Hader to the deal, and Houston’s probably out 6-8 WAR a year.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Cole Hamels is a quality pitcher. And, yes, to get talent, you have to give up talent. But Hamels is 31 right now. Devenski is probably the oldest of this bunch I’ve mentioned, and he’s 24. Buying Hamels would help the Astros into the near future. Maybe for 2017. But when I watch games right now, it’s the lack of guys with a solid hit tool that’s killing Houston.
The Astros are leaving guys on base. The strikeouts are killing scoring opportunities. Cole Hamels won’t help with that. But I’m betting in a couple of years Phillips will. Tucker will. I won’t even dignify the Phillies’ GM’s comments about getting Carlos Correa. That’s just insane.
1. Was the Randy Johnson deal worth it?
2. Is it worth pursuing Cole Hamels?
3. What would you give up for Hamels?
4. Is the window of the next three years — plus this year — worth it?