Was Hamels to the Rangers the year’s best trade?
By October, the team had won the American League West and a ticket to the American League Division Series against the Toronto Blue Jays. Though they were eventually defeated, they took the series to the full five games.
These unexpected accomplishments would never have happened had the Rangers not traded for one of the league’s premiere left-handed starters. Though the Rangers won’t be in the World Series this season, trading for Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels was, and should still be considered, the best trade of the 2015 season.
This assertion comes with a caveat; if, and only if, Johnny Cueto or David Price put up absolutely stunning performances that lead either the Kansas City Royals or the Toronto Blue Jays to a World Series victory, you can concede one championship is worth the price even if the player walks. We’ll wait and see if that happens; one will at least advance to the World Series.
The Rangers did give up quite a bit to acquire Hamels, but he’s already proven his ability to be an asset to the team, and is under contract until 2018 with a team option and a vesting option for the 2019 season. Texas gave up starter Matt Harrison plus three minor league upper-level prospects in Nick Williams, Jake Thompson and Jorge Alfaro to bring Hamels to the Lone Star State, but he was worth every prospect, even if the trade did deplete the Rangers’ farm system a bit.
Hamels made 12 regular-season starts for the Rangers after being traded. He got off to a bit of rough start, giving up five earned runs in his first start, earning a no-decision. In his second start he allowed four runs and this time he took the loss, making some wonder if he could ever be as good in Texas as he was in Philly.
Luckily for the Rangers, the answer was yes. In Hamel’s next ten starts, the Rangers went 10-0 while Hamels earned seven wins and received three no decisions. Those games were pivotal for the Rangers down the stretch. On the day of Hamels’ first start, August 1, the Rangers were eight games back and in third place in the AL West.
By August 23, after Hamels’ fifth start as a Ranger, the Rangers had cut their deficit in the AL West down to four games and had moved into second place in the AL West. By his tenth and final start of the regular season – game 162 – the Rangers were in first place in the Al West by two games. There is no doubt that Hamels was a huge part of the Rangers complete turnaround.
The three-time All-Star has had plenty of postseason experience, being named both the MVP of the 2008 National League Championship Series and MVP of the 2008 World Series. In his 13 postseason games prior to joining the Rangers, Hamels was 7-4 with a 3.09 ERA in the postseason.
Even though Hamels got a no-decision and a loss in his two starts in the 2015 American League Division Series, it wasn’t his pitching that contributed to the teams’ loss. In the seventh inning of Game 5, during what ended up being one of the strangest innings of a postseason game ever, Hamels pitched well but his defense couldn’t back him up, allowing three unearned runs to score, which ultimately led to the end of the Rangers’ 2015 postseason run.
However, when you consider the fact that the Rangers were not supposed to be in the postseason at all, getting to Game 5 of the ALDS is quite an accomplishment. An accomplishment that would not have been possible without Hamels. More than that, the young Rangers gain unexpected experience heading into 2016. Cole Hamels was acquired for 2016 and beyond. While Hamels was not expected to be of much help in this past season, instead he helped get the Rangers come within one game of the ALCS.
Johnny Cueto and David Price were each acquired for a 2015, and only 2015, championship run and only one of the two will have the opportunity to reach the World Series. If he fails, so did the deal itself. Cuteo and Price are only rentals and both the Royals and the Blue Jays have little chance of signing them as free agents over the offseason.
The Texas Rangers made a deal for the future that worked out in the present. When you look back at where the 2015 Rangers finished, and where next year’s Rangers can go, you will look back on this deal. And if the Royals or Jays don’t end this season with a title, we can officially name it the best of the year. The Rangers will have him for years to come, making them quite a dangerous force in the AL West.