Cole Hamels’ Final Gift to the Phillies

He threw a no-hitter, maximized his value, and helped the Phillies haul in a crop of prospects.

Cole Hamels waves to fans during batting practice before a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Citizens Bank Park on July 22nd.

Cole Hamels waves to fans during batting practice before a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Citizens Bank Park on July 22nd.

Cole Hamels may be headed to the Texas Rangers in a massive deal. But he gave Phillies fans a hell of a gift before he left.

On Saturday, Hamels pitched a no-hitter against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field — a notoriously fickle place to throw a no-hitter. Indeed, a no-hitter hadn’t been thrown there since 1972, and the visitors hadn’t thrown one since 1965.

Hamels dominated. He struck out 13, walked just two and, once he finished off the no-hitter got teams to increase their offers to the Phillies. After a career of dominant pitching performances for the Phillies, he ended his career by helping the team get more in return for him. (He also vetoed a trade to the Astros, so maybe the Phillies could have gotten more. But that’s minor.)

It’s only the second time a pitcher has thrown a no-hitter in his final start for a club, and then been traded, according to Dan Mallon, and the first time in-season. Hamels made the ultimate last start for a team not in contention: He had one more signature moment in a Phillies uniform, and helped the club get more for him in a trade.

Hamels seemed to be under-appreciated by some fans during his time in Philadelphia, despite winning a World Series MVP and consistently putting up solid numbers. (Indeed, this is the whole gimmick of the @FanSince09 account.) But his time in Philadelphia was quite good. His only year with a below-average ERA was 2009, and — while he struggled in the 2009 postseason as well — he posted a 0.86 ERA in his final three playoff starts for the Phillies.

The return the Phillies got for Hamels appears to be pretty solid. It is actually quite a haul! The Phillies sent Hamels, Jake Diekman and cash to the Rangers for one current major league starting pitcher and five prospects. Here’s a roundup:

  • Jorge Alfaro, catcher (22 years old): Currently at AA, Alfaro is hitting .253 with 5 homers in 47 games. He is rated MLB’s number two catching prospect. Carlos Ruiz is 36. Alfaro should be the Phillies catcher of the future.
  • Nick Williams, outfielder (21): Williams, the 71st-rated prospect in baseball in Baseball Prospectus’s 2015 rankings, is known for his quick hands and has been working on his patience at the plate this year, per Baseball America. He’s achieved high praise from coaches in the Rangers organization for his improvements this season.
  • Jake Thompson, right-handed pitcher (21): Baseball America ranked him the 43rd-best prospect in baseball. He recently starred in the Pan Am Games. Thompson has struck out 87 and walked 30 in the minors this year. His fastball is in the low 90s and he’s working on new pitches, per Phillies Nation.
  • Alec Asher, right-handed pitcher (23): Asher is already at AAA, and was expected to be in the mix for the rotation next season. His fastball is in the 92-94 range.
  • Jerad Eickhoff, right-handed pitcher (25): Eickhoff stuck out 144 in AA last season, and could project as a bullpen guy.
  • Matt Harrison, left-handed pitcher (29): The Phillies also got a major-league starter in the deal, essentially taking Harrison in lieu of paying more of Hamels’ salary. He’s pitched eight years in the majors, with a 4.21 ERA.

It’s almost always a crapshoot whether prospects turn out. They didn’t land anyone eye-popping in the trade. The Phillies did, however, get a massive haul of five prospects. Who knows what it would have been without Hamels’ final start.