December 11, 2015
In baseball, closers are generally viewed as luxuries. One of the Phillies’ few good young players just so happened to be a lights out closer, so deciding to move on from him seems like a sound strategy from Andy MacPhail and Matt Klentak.
Ken Giles is now headed to Houston, and the Daily News’ David Murphy says that the Phillies’ timeline made the move an obvious one:
This is how you build a franchise. You maximize the value of your assets. That Giles would have been dominant and healthy when the Phillies were ready to contend was far from a guarantee, given the track record of the position in both of those departments. Rosters are not built in a vacuum in which players can be retained - or signed to crippling contract extensions - just because they are good and we like them. Put it this way: If both players reach their ceilings, Velasquez will be far more valuable than Giles. Given the Phillies' rebuilding status, the deal was a no-brainer.
How about that return? Can Vincent Velasquez, who has battled injuries throughout his young career, provide the Phillies with an adequate replacement for Giles down the line? ESPN’s Keith Law says Velasquez can pitch in the starting rotation, as long as he stays healthy:
He has an above-average fastball and plus changeup, but didn't use the change enough in his big-league tenure and has never found an above-average third pitch. I think he can remain a starter even if the curveball remains a fringe-average weapon because the changeup is good and hitters don't see the fastball well, but some evidence of durability would be nice.
That’s not to say everyone loved the return that the Phillies got. From ESPN’s Jayson Stark:
The consensus of scouts and execs I surveyed was that the Astros made a tremendous deal with Philadelphia for the swing-and-miss closer they'd targeted all winter, Ken Giles. The guy they got comes with five years of control and a repertoire, makeup and track record that makes him almost a Craig Kimbrel Lite. And the cost was four players whose exit won't get in the way of the Astros' big future in any significant way.
On the Giles trade: "I'm a fan of the concept, a fan of the reasoning. But I'm not a fan of the return" - @jaysonst— 975TheFanatic (@975TheFanatic) December 10, 2015
"I had executives say to me 'I wish they talked to me, I could've done better than that" - @jaysonst— 975TheFanatic (@975TheFanatic) December 10, 2015
FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan understands that this deal involves two teams at drastically different stages. He believes that the Phillies did well here:
This is the Astros consolidating talent. And this is the Phillies collecting it. Two teams at different stages, with the Phillies hoping to get to where the Astros are. Moves like this should help them. Losing a pitcher like Giles is never fun, and Velasquez could have any number of things go wrong, but the goal is to bring in as much raw skill as possible. A fresh haul is arriving.
And for the Houston point of view, here is what Jason Marbach of the SB Nation blog Crawfish Boxes wrote. He likes Velasquez quite a bit:
So, color this writer a reformed skeptic, at least in regards to this trade. Velasquez stings, and will continue to sting, but with the embarrassment of riches in the Astros' minor league stable of talented arms, even losing he and Thomas Eshelman isn't a devastating hit. Velasquez did not have a clearly defined role with the Major League team this year - though I personally would have made him the fifth starter.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann