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Astros trade: The Cost Of Ken Giles

An in-depth look at what the Astros gave up to land one of the preeminent young relief arms in baseball

Jennifer Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, the Astros finalized a deal that had kept social media - and our comment here at TCB - buzzing all afternoon.

Here's the trade (not officially final).

Philadelphia receives:

Vincent Velasquez, Brett Oberholtzer, Derek Fisher, and Thomas Eshelman

Houston receives:

Ken Giles


Quite a return for a reliever who has all of 115.2 innings pitched in the Major Leagues.  But let's break this down a bit, because on its face, this isn't a terribly painful trade for the Astros to add the dominant late inning reliever they've desperately sought this offseason.

SP Vincent Velasquez

This is obviously the piece that hurts the most.  Vincent Velasquez looks to have a ceiling as a top of the rotation arm, and he could already be considered a solid number four or five starting pitcher based on his performance as a rookie in 2015.  After averaging 10.8 K/9 across 8 stops in the minor leagues, Vincent Velasquez posted a strong showing as a rookie by striking batters out at a 9.38 K/9 rate in the major leagues en route to posting this strong stat line:

1 1 0 19 7 55.2 9.38 3.4 0.81 0.31 68.20% 31.30% 7.10% 4.37 3.46 4.15 1

He will have a nearly-certain stranglehold on a rotation spot in Philadelphia, likely for years to come.  Phillies fans appear to be upset because of a perceived lighter haul than they were anticipating, but they should at least be able to really look forward to some good things from Vincent Velasquez.

Here is a video of his Major League debut to remember St. Vincent's brief stay in the Bayou City:

OF Derek Fisher

Fisher was the 37th overall pick in the 2014 draft for the Astros, and has been a well-regarded prospect throughout his brief professional career thanks to an intriguing combination of raw power and speed.  He is currently capable of playing center field, though he's been projected to ultimately move to left field as he ages and fills out a bit.  His weaker throwing arm probably limits a lot of his otherwise substantial defensive value, but he's still going to be a very good defensive left fielder.  The question with Fisher appears to be whether his hit tool will play at the highest level - or, at least, whether it will play enough for him to be a solid contributor in left field.  Here is a look at his complete minor league performance to date, with his brief stint in the Arizona Fall League this year included on the last line:

2014 Astros (R) 1 4 0 0 0 0 25.00% 0.00% 0.333 0.667 0.667 0.750 1.000 0.772 374
2014 Astros (A-) 41 172 2 31 18 17 9.30% 20.30% 0.105 0.379 0.303 0.378 0.408 0.366 133
2015 Astros (A) 39 171 6 32 24 8 11.10% 21.60% 0.205 0.370 0.305 0.386 0.510 0.411 159
2015 Astros (A+) 84 398 16 74 63 23 11.80% 23.90% 0.209 0.314 0.262 0.354 0.471 0.362 124
2015 Desert Dogs (R) 17 73 2 7 14 3 19.20% 31.50% 0.169 0.382 0.254 0.397 0.424 0.382 131

Here are a couple of prospect videos of Fisher, if you're interested:

SP Brett Oberholzer

We all know Obie.  He has a profile (coming into 2015, anyway) as a left handed fly ball pitcher with excellent control.  However, he lost some of that control in 2015 and also changed some of his batted ball profile, trending a bit more towards ground balls in 2015.  Here's a look at his career Astros stats:

2013 4 5 0 13 10 71.2 5.65 1.63 0.88 0.260 76.90% 35.60% 7.10% 2.76 3.65 4.27 1.3
2014 5 13 0 24 24 143.2 5.89 1.75 0.75 0.325 69.50% 37.20% 5.80% 4.39 3.56 4.25 2.3
2015 2 2 0 8 8 38.1 6.34 3.99 0.94 0.328 72.70% 48.80% 9.50% 4.46 4.49 4.75 0.3

It bears mentioning that, following an infamous meltdown in Houston against the New York Yankees this year in which he appeared to intentionally throw at Designated Hitter Alex Rodriguez, Oberholzer seemed to have possibly caused long-term harm to his relationship with manager A.J. Hinch - not to mention the other players in the Astros clubhouse.  Oberholzer was demoted immediately following that game, though he did ultimately return briefly to the big league club in 2015 before the Scott Kazmir trade, and just didn't look the same afterwards.

We've all seen that video.  Some salty Yankees announcers, but I'm not sure I'd feel differently were the roles reversed.

SP Thomas Eshelman

This was a tough one for me to swallow, as Eshelman is my favorite player that we drafted after the big three (Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker, and Daz Cameron) in 2015.  If his name looks unfamiliar, it's likely because he only pitched in 10.1 innings this year as a professional - however, that was because he had just finished his junior year at Cal-State Fullerton, where he logged a stout 130 innings pitched...two years after setting an NCAA single season record by walking just 3 hitters in 115.2 innings pitched. His walk rate in that record setting year was an astonishing 0.23 BB/9, and he continued exhibiting freakishly surgical precision with his pitch locations throughout college by walking just a grand total of 17 hitters in 362.2 collegiate innings pitched - for a BB/9 rate of 0.42 - which is obviously just absurd.  In extremely limited (again, 10.1 IP) action as a pro, he walked 4.4 hitters per nine innings - which is not at all in line with his college stats - but many, many players struggle in their first taste of professional baseball.  Seems likely that he will go on to at least be a very solid prospect as he matures.  He seems a very good get for the Phillies, to me.

Bonus reading about Eshelman:

Eshelman Is Ultimate Master Of Control

The Conclusion

All told, it appears to be a pretty reasonable trade for both teams.  But you can read more about the overall analysis of the trade in my trade analysis piece separately.  For now, let's take a minute to reflect upon the value - and the memories these four players brought to us as fans, and to wish them a hearty "Good luck!" with their new team in their new city: The City of Brotherly Love.

SP Vincent Velasquez
OF Derek Fisher
SP Brett Oberholzer
SP Thomas Eshelman

HOU sends:

RP Ken Giles