The 2010s was the most successful decade in the history of the Texas Rangers franchise. A club record 96 wins in 2011 was one of five 90-win campaigns in the decade, which featured two American League pennants, four division titles, and five postseason berths.
The team found its success thanks to some savvy moves by the front office but also fell into the abyss of three consecutive losing seasons due to some regrettable ones.
Over the next several weeks Baseball Essential will be doing a series on the best and worst trade every team in Major League Baseball has made over the last decade. Here is the best and worst trade the Texas Rangers have made since 2010.
The Best Trade the Texas Rangers Have Made Since 2010: Texas acquires Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman from the Philadelphia Phillies for Jorge Alfaro, Alec Asher, Jerad Eickhoff, Matt Harrison, Jake Thompson, and Nick Williams (July 30, 2015)
The Cole Hamels trade return had to be extensive for the Phillies to trade their ace at the time, who had thrown a no-hitter in his last start with Philadelphia. The Rangers were willing to pay the hefty price to get an in-his-prime starter with three years of club control, instantly inserting him into a contending rotation.
But that substantial price turned out to be a bunch of okay-at-best role players. Let’s see how the five players Philly got for their 2008 World Series hero have fared since this 2015 blockbuster.
- Catcher Jorge Alfaro hit .270 with 15 home runs in 143 games over three years with the Phillies, before being traded away to the Miami Marlins in the J.T. Realmuto deal.
- Right-handed pitcher Alec Asher went 2-7 with a 5.88 ERA in 12 starts with the Phillies. He was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for a player to be named later in 2017.
- Jerad Eickhoff posted a 21-30 record as a depth starter with Philadelphia over five seasons. With an ERA over four and approaching 30 years old, the Phillies let him walk in free agency, and the righty signed with the San Diego Padres.
- Left-handed pitcher Matt Harrison was an All-Star and top-10 Cy Young Award finisher for the Rangers and appeared in zero (0) games for Philadelphia.
- Right-handed pitcher Jake Thompson went 7-8 with a 4.87 ERA over three seasons as both a starter and reliever with the Phillies. He was purchased from the Phillies minor-league system by the Milwaukee Brewers and has yet to appear in the majors again. He is now a free agent.
- Right fielder Nick Williams is the only one from this trade package remaining in the Phillies system, but in three years at the major-league level, he’s still trying to figure things out. In 290 games with the Phillies he has posted a 99 OPS+ at a premium offensive position and owns a career -1.8 Baseball-Reference WAR.
Not one of these players have come close to replicating the immense value Hamels immediately brought to the Rangers. In 12 starts during the back half of the 2015 season, the breaking-ball specialist recorded a 7-1 record with 78 strikeouts and a 3.66 ERA to lead the Rangers into the postseason.
In his first full season with the club, the 34-year-old sailed into a spot on the AL All-Star Club in 2016, going 15-5 and eating over 200 innings as the ace of a Texas staff that dealt with seemingly never-ending injuries.
While Hamels’ own injuries and struggles had him posting ERAs over four in his last two seasons (2017 and the first half of 2018) with Texas, his usefulness and reliability in Arlington was well worth the once large but now minimal cost.
The Worst Trade the Texas Rangers Have Made Since 2010: Texas acquires Prince Fielder from the Detroit Tigers for Ian Kinsler (November 20, 2013)
There exists a lesser-known term in sports called a “challenge trade.” The definition of a challenge trade is something like “two teams swap individual players, no prospects or draft picks, hoping a change of scenery brings out the best in the players involved.”
Shortly after the 2013 season, the Tigers and Rangers initiated one of the more noteworthy challenge trades in the recent history of professional sports: Ian Kinsler, a star second baseman on the Texas teams that competed for the Commissioner’s Trophy, for Prince Fielder, a powerful, exciting first baseman/designated hitter with an absurdly high price tag.
Fielder was coming off a 2014 season that saw the former National League Most Valuable Player Award finalist set career lows in OPS (.819), home runs (25), and slugging percentage (.457), and yet the Rangers didn’t hesitate to throw a three-time All-Star and perhaps their most consistent player away for him.
The thought behind shipping Kinsler off was that Jurickson Profar, the club’s top prospect, would supersede him. Profar was a natural middle infielder, but Elvis Andrus was cemented at shortstop, and the quickly-emerging Profar needed time on the diamond.
While Kinsler had just completed the first season of a five-year contract, his $75 million deal was a downright steal for his quality of play. Contact hitting, plus baserunning, and elite defense at second for relatively cheap. Fielder, on the other hand, had seven years and $168 million remaining on his contract.
Kinsler played out four seasons in Detroit, continuing to excel at what he does best (he slashed .275/.328/.436 and stole 53 bases with the Tigers), winning a Gold Glove (2016) and appearing in the All-Star Game for the fourth time (2014).
Meanwhile, Fielder had to fight to stay on the field. In his first season as a Ranger, he hit .247 with a pedestrian .720 OPS in 42 contests before a midseason neck surgery ended his campaign. He came back strong in 2015, playing 158 games and hitting .305, garnering MVP votes in the process, but his power had evaporated; he hit homers and recorded a .463 slugging percentage, the second-lowest of his career among full seasons.
Fielder was arguably the worst hitter in baseball in his abbreviated 2016 season, slashing .212/.292/.334 over 370 plate appearances. In July of that year, he was diagnosed with C4-C5 herniations in his previously ailed neck, which instantly prevented him from playing baseball in the future. Though he didn’t officially retire, the lefty announced soon after the diagnosis that his playing days were over.
Fielder has been on the 60-day injured list since the initial diagnosis. Both the Rangers and Tigers are paying off portions of his contract through the end of 2020.
The deal was a disaster with many moving parts for Texas. Profar missed two whole seasons with recurring shoulder injuries, while Fielder, sadly, could no longer contribute to the club, all while Kinsler put up All-Star numbers for the Tigers.
The trade could’ve been perfect for both teams. They were both dealing from positions of depth and acquiring star talent for positions of dire need. However, the Rangers took on far more risk from the outset of the trade, and that risk came back to bite them in the worst way.
Stay tuned to Baseball Essential over the next few weeks for more on the best and worst trades made by all 30 MLB clubs over the past 10 years.