Astros, Phillies Agree on Ken Giles Trade

Say goodbye to Ken Giles, Phillies fans. Giles is headed to the Astros in exchange for Vincent Velasquez, Brett Oberholtzer, Derek Fisher, and Thomas Eshelman.

Velasquez, selected in the second round of the 2010 draft by the Astros, is the headliner in the deal. The 23-year-old made his major league debut last season for the Astros jumping from Double-A Corpus Christi past Triple-A Fresno. He started seven games and appeared out of the bullpen 12 times. He compiled a 4.37 ERA with a 58/21 K/BB ratio in 55 2/3 innings.

Heading into the 2015 season, Velasquez was rated 86th out of baseball’s top-100 prospects according to and #75 per Baseball Prospectus. The right-hander throws a fastball in the 92-95 MPH range and pairs that with an above-average change-up. Velasquez also has a work-in-progress curve that, if he continues to improve it, could allow him to be a dominant starter. If his stuff doesn’t play over six innings, Velasquez also has the potential to contribute as a set-up man or a closer down the line.

Though Velasquez already has major league experience under his belt, the Phillies should consider having him start the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He’s not a finished product — as mentioned, he could use some work on his curve, and his command was spotty at times. Having added Jeremy Hellickson along with Oberholtzer, the Phillies will not be in dire need of rotation depth in 2016, so they can afford to continue developing their new pitching prospect.

Oberholtzer, 26, will fill the Phillies’ need for an innings-eater out of the rotation. The left-hander has a lot of similarities to former Phillie Kyle Kendrick in that he misses bats rarely without offering elite control or a predilection for ground balls to make up for it. His rates: 15 percent for strikeouts, five percent for walks, and 38.5 for ground balls. Oberholtzer utilizes a high-80’s fastball along with a cutter, a change-up, and a curve.

Oberholtzer has shown some immaturity, as he famously threw at Alex Rodriguez in June this past season. The Astros optioned him to Triple-A as a result. If he’s still having problems controlling his emotions, the Phillies will have time to work with him on it, as Oberholtzer will be under team control through 2020.

Fisher, 22, is an outfielder that was ranked the Astros’ eighth-best prospect by He’s local to the area, graduating from Cedar Crest High School in Lebanon, PA. The Astros selected him in the first round, 37th overall, in the 2014 draft.

In his first full season of professional baseball, with Single-A Quad Cities and High-A Lancaster, Fisher hit a combined .275/.364/.483 with 21 doubles, 22 home runs, and 31 stolen bases in 38 attempts across 569 plate appearances. Fisher doesn’t have the arm to play center field or right field, but if his bat continues to progress, he can certainly hit enough to justify the position. Bill Mitchell of Baseball America wrote about Fisher last month, describing his raw power as “plus-plus”.

Fisher joins an increasingly bigger pool of outfield prospects in the Phillies’ system. Nick Williams, Cornelius Randolph, and Roman Quinn can also be found in the Phillies’ top-10 as well as likely utilityman Darnell Sweeney and probable Rule 5 pick Tyler Goeddel.

Eshelman, 21, was selected by the Astros in the second round of the 2015 draft. He tossed 10 1/3 innings, split between the Astros’ rookie league team and Single-A Quad Cities. The right-hander allowed five runs on 12 hits and five walks with eight strikeouts. It’s a lukewarm professional debut considering what he did as a college pitcher with Cal State Fullerton. Eshelman walked a grand total of 18 batters while striking out 321 in 376 1/3 innings. Obviously, college baseball is a different animal than minor league baseball, but it was impressive nevertheless.

Eshelman, who was ranked as the Astros’ 13th-best prospect by, has fringy stuff that likely limits his potential to that of a #5 starter. He throws a fastball that sits in the high 80’s and low 90’s, as well as a change-up and a pair of breaking balls. He will most likely move quickly through the Phillies’ system and serve as pitching depth. (Our own Michael Baumann wrote about Eshelman for earlier this year.)

The Phillies haven’t announced anything yet, but David Hernandezsigned earlier on a one-year, $3.9 million deal — is a favorite to get the nod as the closer going forward.

This trade seems like a win on all sides. The Astros get a dominant closer who’s ready to contribute right away. The Phillies get a projectable arm who could either become a mid-rotation starter (or better) or become a late-innings reliever himself, a lefty who will serve as rotation depth at worst, a toolsy corner outfielder, and a reliable starter to serve as depth down the road.

Featured image credit: Hunter Martin, Getty Images

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  1. Ben

    December 09, 2015 08:58 PM

    Sounds like it’s Fisher. Here’s from a BA article:

    The scouting report on Fisher pegs him as a corner outfielder, likely limited to left field due to a below-average arm, but with the power and speed to put up 20-20 seasons in the big leagues. He recently showed off his plus-plus raw power with a couple of long home runs that had Fall League crowds buzzing, including a three-run shot off Arizona righthander Yoan Lopez that landed well up the distant, multi-tiered batter’s eye at Salt River Fields. With one week left in the season, Fisher is batting .216/.375/.392 with two home runs and three stolen bases.

    • Sean f

      December 09, 2015 09:05 PM

      Saw one report comparing him to……. Dominic brown! God, I hope not.

  2. Gil

    December 09, 2015 08:56 PM

    Let’s hope the third player makes the deal look better for the Phillies.

    • Bubba0101

      December 09, 2015 09:06 PM

      Yeah I don’t get this deal. So far, we got two average pitchers who might be back of the rotation but probably more like long relief, and a decent, albeit young, outfield prospect. That’s fairly terrible considering what the Padres got for Kimbrel.

      • ASK

        December 11, 2015 06:14 AM

        On what are you basing this assessment? Just about every prospects guy who I’ve read is bullish on the Phillies’ return for Giles.

  3. Peter

    December 09, 2015 09:23 PM

    Yup, should have waited til the deadline. Valezquez looks ok, but the others look sucky or like lottery tickets…

    But then again, I was not 100% sold on Giles. His control issues always hangs over everything. If he can continue to improve command, that’s a lidge action slider with a harder fb. Oh well.

    • Peter

      December 09, 2015 09:52 PM

      wow – netizens are so hungry for action just like 1st year gm’s on new teams at the winter meetings. Happens every year – the new gm’s get antsy and feel compelled to make a splash.

    • Peter

      December 09, 2015 11:28 PM

      Welp, just did a review of the Astros blogs and those guys who love and over value their prospects as much as those redsox nerds seem to pretty much really like this deal.

      • Bill Baer

        December 10, 2015 01:32 AM

        Just because fans of the other team like the deal doesn’t mean it was bad. The trade benefits both sides a lot. Essentially the perfect trade.

      • Peter

        December 10, 2015 06:47 AM

        maybe so, but blogs & their followers seem to have a pretty good graps of their farm – just like this blog and a good chunk of the posters.

      • ASK

        December 11, 2015 06:24 AM

        Which Astros blogs did you read? The ones that I read (Crawfish Boxes and Astros County) felt that it was a good trade for both sides using terms like “you have to give to get” and “the price was steep, but not staggeringly so”.

      • Peter

        December 11, 2015 12:18 PM

        Oh boy – you must not be familiar with those blogs & reading between the lines & how much they over value their prospects & the process & surplus value & Orbit…
        You’re really missing the real story if you think neutral statements are neutral statements.

  4. Mark

    December 09, 2015 09:31 PM

    Martes or a j Reed should have been in the deal…..both in top ten of astros prospects.

    • ASK

      December 11, 2015 06:28 AM

      Last off-season, Kiley McDaniel ranked Velasquez as Houston’s #3 prospect (behind Correa and Appel). He’s no longer considered a “prospect” because he pitched more than 50 innings in MLB last year.

  5. Tony

    December 09, 2015 09:49 PM

    I love the deal, no matter who the last prospect is. Giles is borderline elite closer, but this team needs starters with upside more than it needs a guy who can close out meaningless games. When we’re contending again, we can always do like the Astros did and get a closer, especially with the farm system suddenly looking stocked again.

    Meanwhile, Velazquez sounds like he’s got the kind of tools that could profile well in high-leverage relief even if he never realizes his ace starter potential. Given what we know about his potential, it sounds like a win-win, with the other role players and lottery tickets helping spread out the risk of having all the eggs in the Giles basket.

    • Peter

      December 09, 2015 09:54 PM

      I bet one of the 10 teams or so in actual contention come July with a string of lost leads would have paid more.

      • Peter

        December 09, 2015 10:05 PM

        Agreed on that, but guess I’d rather have seen the club swing for the fences – we are in last place afterall. Playing to move up to fourth place isn’t too exciting to me.

      • Nik

        December 09, 2015 09:56 PM

        Or maybe Giles loses a few mph on his fastball like he did early on last year and his value nose-dives.

      • Tony

        December 09, 2015 10:04 PM

        What Nik said. Giles isn’t Chapman or Kimbrel yet, and even Kimbrel wasn’t 2012-2014 Kimbrel last year. Once you get past the top two or three names, the MLB SV leaderboard is a total crap shoot year-to-year. Is the difference in what we would have gotten in July worth the gamble that Giles’ stock is as high then as it is now? I really don’t think so.

  6. Bob

    December 09, 2015 10:19 PM

    I like this deal. Good value.

  7. Pete

    December 09, 2015 11:38 PM

    So now that the FO traded all (almost) of the players that won’t be part of the next competitive team, have they started trading the players that would be part of the next competitive team? Is our rebuild going to start looking less like a Red Sox rebuild and more like an Astros rebuild?

    • Bob

      December 09, 2015 11:49 PM

      1. No

      2. It’s probably going to be a Phillies-style rebuild.

      • Pete

        December 10, 2015 01:27 AM

        Yeah, I realize that the Phillies rebuild will definitely not be like the Astros. I’m venting a little bit. But it still seems odd to trade a player who seems to be exactly what you need to become competitive again–young, controlled, MLB-proven (somewhat) elite talent–for lottery tickets. You can only hope one of the players in the return will produce at Giles’s level.

      • Pete

        December 10, 2015 01:33 AM

        That should be “(somewhat) MLB-proven elite talent”

  8. Shawn

    December 10, 2015 02:39 AM

    This seems like a terrible deal to me, are we hoping Hernandez or Valasquez are the closer of the future when we start to compete again? Giles will probably already be an established closer. Hopefully this Fisher guy works out in left field even though we already have a stacked set of prospects in the outfield (though you never know with prospects and can never have too many). Seems like a forced and frankly baffling deal to me.

    • ASK

      December 11, 2015 06:31 AM

      We are hoping Valasquez reaches his upside as a #2 starter. If he needs to move to the bullpen to stay healthy, his floor is back-end reliever. Getting 200 above average innings from a pitcher is far more valuable than getting 60 very good innings.

  9. JohnVegas

    December 10, 2015 04:28 AM

    I wonder if Fisher’s power is real if he could be a very interesting first base option. Probably would play plus defense there and provide base running at a position that lacks it.

  10. jake

    December 10, 2015 05:22 AM

    A fair trade it seems. The Phils had to trade Giles IMO. He’s a luxury on a rebuilding team and the seasonal variability of closers essentially means you can’t predict that when the Phillies are ready to compete in 2018 or beyond that he’ll be a useful and productive piece. It was wise to trade him at about his highest value.

    • Pete

      December 10, 2015 05:59 AM

      Sure, but his highest value on the field is incredibly high. If he maintains his level of play (and I think there’s enough evidence to suggest that outcome is the more likely than he falls apart), then he would be incredibly valuable to a post-season contending team. You’ve just traded away someone who has the potential to be historically good at his position for a few guys who if they pan out would be above average at best.

      • Mike B

        December 10, 2015 11:54 AM

        You’re significantly overestimating the value of a closer. While Giles is very good right now, the Phils would need him to be very good in a few years, and the odds of that being the case are low. There are a lot more Billy Kochs and Jonathan Broxtons than Mariano Riveras.

      • Greg

        December 10, 2015 01:39 PM

        Even if Giles ends up being “historically good” at his position, he’s still only pitching 70 innings a year, and “historically good” relievers– even Mariano– are still mostly failed starters. Look at Wade Davis. Total flop as a starter, even with a plus pitch. Put him in the pen with that plus pitch and he’s lights out. By the time the Phillies are competitive again, they’ll have had plenty of time to figure out who’s going to be closing all those wins. More than likely that player isn’t even in the system, and is still trying to be a starter somewhere.
        The phils are collecting live arms, and got them for a player who’s position is the only one in the game that’s tied to the thing the phillies are not expected to need: finishing wins. Would you prefer the phils keep trying to win 75 games, finish middle of the pack, and leave their draft picks exposed it they want to sign a free agent? The phillies have the money and resources to go worst to first, if they develop their prospects properly, then recognize when it’s time to spend all their money on free agents to fill the biggest holes.

      • Pete

        December 10, 2015 11:44 PM

        @Mike B,

        I’m definitely realistic about the value of a closer. We’re just disagreeing on what the likelihood of Giles versus the haul contributing (and at what level) to the next competitive team. In my opinion, even if one or some of the haul pan out, they’re not the type of players who will be difference-makers. Giles is, even in a limited number of innings. Hopefully I’m wrong about the haul.

        And to be clear, I’m not saying it’s a bad trade. It is a good trade. And not trading him would have been good too. This isn’t a situation where you had to make the move.

        @ Greg,

        Giles can’t make a big enough difference to push the Phillies into mediocrity on his own. It’s the rest of the developing core that will determine where they finish. All I’m saying is that Giles is young enough and freakishly good enough that it seemed worth it to role the dice on him still being elite when the rest of the core develops and puts the Phillies into serious (not just fringe) contention.

  11. Peter

    December 10, 2015 07:27 AM

    The 4th player is probably one of the guys up for the astros in the rule 5 draft. I see a lefty & a catcher getting some attention as possible picks. Phils probably like them but not if they have to carry them on the varsity for a full year. Obviously, if another team drafts them they can’t be included in the trade and another suspect will be added.

    • Peter

      December 10, 2015 07:32 AM

      oops, missed the update

  12. Romus

    December 10, 2015 08:07 AM

    If anything, the farm system has been boosted another rung up the ladder. Fisher has to be in the top ten. And Eshelman probably sits somewhere in the 25-30 range.

    • Mike B

      December 10, 2015 11:57 AM

      I am really interested to see Eshelman. He could be nothing, or he could be Greg Maddux. Great throw-in, IMO.

      • ASK

        December 11, 2015 06:32 AM

        He’s not going to be Greg Maddux, one of the best pitchers of a generation. It will be a fantastic get if he’s 80% of Greg Maddux.

    • Greg

      December 10, 2015 01:42 PM

      Agreed. And I think farm system depth is definitely something to be valued. Even if there’s some sort of logjam of OF prospects, at least you have assets to trade to fill other needs. I love this trade, and it’s exactly the kind of trade I feel like Amaro wouldn’t have made. It’s all about acquiring assets. Look at what the Braves got from Heyward. One year of Shelby Miller for a boatload of high level prospects, and now they may spin Enciarte into even more. If you’re not expecting to win in the next couple of years, just stockpile and then evaluate.

  13. Romus

    December 10, 2015 08:40 AM

    I like the 22-year old Fisher……he’s a toolsy player with a lifetime .837 OPS in the minors. He’s progressed as far as High Class A and also played in the Arizona Fall League…with two booming HRs that had the folks in awe……BUT ( always those buts)….he has no arm…..he , of the ‘ Ben Revere’ arm, and as big and strong as he is, will be pushed to LF.
    Perhaps an experiment or try at 2nd or 1st…but they are the three positions that appear to be his only MLB options.

  14. Bob

    December 10, 2015 08:48 AM

    In a perfect world, the Phillies’ farm system would be bursting with major-league starters who could fill the 3-5 roles in our rotation. Unfortunately, the farm system is so bereft of ML-ready talent that we’re being forced to restock. That wouldn’t be so bad if our ML team wasn’t also devoid of starters. I would think that it’s pretty rare that a team just has so few SP in the upper-minors-majors. Therefore, we have to make some tough choices like trading Giles to get a potential number 3 starter in Vazquez and depth with Oberholtzer.

    Trading a closer for a number three isn’t so bad. JA Happ just got like a 36mm contract this year and we got a plus bat, a youngish-depth starter, and a PTN. It’s sad to see Giles go, but our SP situation was dire and Giles was a luxury that we could no longer afford.

    • ASK

      December 11, 2015 06:37 AM

      Between Nola, Eickhoff, Velasquez and Thompson, you have 4 guys who project to fill the rotation for years. With most of the choices to go 1/1 in the Rule 4 draft this June being SP’s, they have the potential to have a young, cost-controlled rotation by late 2017 or 2018. Potential being the key word in that sentence.

      • Bob

        December 11, 2015 09:26 AM

        Yes, there are some in the pipeline, but not enough to hedge against risk.

      • ASK

        December 16, 2015 07:12 AM


        Obviously, this was written before the deal was revised to include Appel instead of Fisher. And, while I agree that they still don’t have enough to hedge against risk – although Appel now improves them in that regard – I would say that Rome was not built in a day. In the last 4 months, they’ve added Appel, Velasquez, Thompson, Eickhoff and others to Nola, Eflin and Lively. They’ll probably also add another high ceiling arm in June. It’s a start…

  15. Major Malfunction

    December 10, 2015 08:49 AM

    Hernandez as the closer? He walks a LOT of batters and has 19 saves and 19 blown saves for his career. Not exactly a warm and fuzzy feeling there, especially when you add in the Tommy John surgery..

    But then, this season isn’t expected to be a year where a dependable closer is a necessity or of any real importance, hence the ability to trade Giles.

    • Romus

      December 10, 2015 10:03 AM

      MajMal…really doesn’t paint a rosy picture for David Hernandez as the closer next season.
      Perhaps it will be closer by committee….when it is needed.
      Perhaps bring Paps back to mentor the bullpen yutes!

      • Evan

        December 10, 2015 10:48 AM

        I hope the last sentence was a joke. Please tell me it was!

      • Romus

        December 10, 2015 01:56 PM

        Evan…yes……forgot the (tic) or the 🙂

  16. Sean f

    December 10, 2015 09:58 AM

    Two questions: 1). Does fisher project to be a first base option? 2). Is fister still possibly in the phils rotation plans?

    • Bob

      December 10, 2015 10:28 AM

      Doug Fister terrifies me. His GB% is down. His velo is down. His SIERA and FIP are up. It looks like players are making harder contact on him. His swinging strike % is down. His numbers across the board are bad. I’m not seeing why people want to sign him.

      • Carmine

        December 10, 2015 10:43 AM

        Fister had a decent 2014 for Washington, but suffered with forearm problems. He is definitely high risk but costs only money. He could be worth it with an incentive laden contract.
        As for Giles, I really liked him, but think this trade is wise for organizational depth and because the injury risk for young flamethrowers is a concern.

      • Bob

        December 10, 2015 10:52 AM

        His 2014 numbers were way down from his 2013 number. His 2015 numbers are down from his 2014 numbers. It could be a pattern of decline. It could be the injury. It’s difficult to tell with the information released to fans. I would pass, though, based on the little we know.

  17. Baslim

    December 10, 2015 11:37 AM

    Looking at the meager haul that the Phillies gave for Brad Lidge in ’07, it appears the Astros got flimflammed like country bumpkins at the State Fair in that deal.

    • Andrew Cleveland Alexander

      December 10, 2015 12:26 PM

      If one of these players turns into Michael Bourn, i.e. a first-division starter and occasional All-Star with one elite tool, I will say job well done!

    • Donnie

      December 10, 2015 02:02 PM

      Lidge was a rebound candidate at the time, having been Pujol’ed into a long slump.

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