Astros May be Going for Cole Hamels with an “Untouchable” Prospect as Bait


Ladies and gentlemen, the ____ could be about to hit the fan. On Sunday I wrote about the Astros going after Cole Hamels: Are the Astros “Sleepers” for Cole Hamels? I offered a suggested trade that the Phillies might take, and hinted that Carlos Correa and Mark Appel should be untouchables. According to Jim Bowden (@JimBowden_ESPN) on MLB Network Radio, the Astros are a sleeper for Cole Hamels and appear to be willing to include Mark Appel. If this is true, will it be worth it?

So for this article, I’m going to use a split personality to look at this rumored trade. Part of this article will be written as the devil on my shoulder to trade Appel for Hamels, and the other will be from the angel on my shoulder against the rumored trade.

Devil on the right shoulder (Pro Trade)

The temptation of Cole Hamels in the Astros rotation might cause people to forget their beliefs.

I’m not going to focus on the Cole Hamels side of the trade, I already did that in the previous piece. Hamels is an ace pitcher right now on a bad team. The addition of Hamels to the Astros will not necessarily make them a playoff contender, but would put them back in the hunt. People around the league recognize that the Astros are improving, so getting Hamels will take the pressure off of Scott Feldman, Dallas Keuchel, and Collin McHugh.

Hamels is under contract until 2019 (with club option or vesting option), so it would not be trading Appel for a 1 year rental player, he would probably be the ace for 5 + years. Hamels has a no trade clause to 21 teams, the Astros are one of those teams. Hamels has also said that he wants to play for a winner, which the Astros could be before long.

Compared to other ace pitchers, Hamels $23 million per year is a value. While there are probably going to be other top of the rotation pitchers after the 2015 season to hit free agency, the Astros would have to pay more than Hamels’ $23M to get them. I could see the Astros really being a strong team as early as next year with Hamels leading the staff, and Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Scott Feldman, and Brett Oberholtzer or Michael Foltynewicz to follow.

While this may be a sensitive subject to Astros fans trading their young stud Appel, the farm system is stacked with pitching. Behind Appel on the prospect list is Michael Foltynewicz, Lance McCullers, Michael Feliz, Vincent Velasquez, Josh Hader, and Kyle Smith. While some of them aren’t as major league ready, they still have high potential.

Appel struggled last year in Class A Lancaster with 2-5 record, 9.74 ERA, 1.917 WHIP, and 40 strikeouts in 44 innings. He did recover in a rare promotion of a struggling player to Double A Corpus Christi. With the Hooks, Appel went 1-2, 3.69 ERA. 1.231 WHIP, and 38 strikeouts in 39 innings.

Yes, the Phillies could be holding Hamels in front of the Astros like a carrot on a stick, waiting until the Astros give up one of their top 2 prospects. So if Luhnow really wants to make a splash, it might take Appel to get him, but keep Carlos Correa at all costs.

Jim Crane has said he will expand budget for right player, and that is what Cole Hamels is.

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The Angel on the left shoulder (Against trade)

Stick to your beliefs of the “process,” and remember that Appel and Correa are the chosen ones!

While I see the benefits of trading Mark Appel for Cole Hamels, what have we been doing for the past 5 years? The idea was to build a strong farm system that constantly replenishes itself, while creating a winning major league product. While the Astros might be able to get 4-5 years out of Hamels, they are forfeiting 6-7 years of a young and controllable pitcher. Yes we don’t know how Appel will pitch when he reaches the majors, but ask how the Braves feel about trading a young Adam Wainwright.

Appel showed his top stuff during the Arizona fall league, giving the Astros fans a preview of whats to come.

To quote Evan Drellich, “The AFL team Appel and other Astros prospects played for, the Salt River Rafters, have one more game left, the league’s championship game on Saturday. But the 23-year-old righty’s season is over, with a strong showing in 31 innings. He had a 2.61 ERA, 24 strikeouts and eight walks — a great bounceback for someone who struggled for much of the regular season in the minor leagues.”

“with a strong showing in 31 innings. He had a 2.61 ERA, 24 strikeouts and eight walks — a great bounceback for someone who struggled for much of the regular season in the minor leagues.”-Evan Drellich

Appel’s last start of the Arizona Fall league, Jeff Luhnow, A.J. Hinch, and Nolan Ryan attended the game just to watch him pitch. While he is on of the twenty top Astros prospects, he and Correa are the future leaders of the Astros. Would a big blockbuster trade in order to get Hamels set the Astros “process” back a little?

If Appel is to be included in the trade, the Phillies might have to eat more of the $ of contract. Plus, I think the Phillies biggest weakness is their offense, which they have done little to improve on this winter. That’s why I think the Phillies will be more focused on Domingo Santana and Colin Moran. The Astros system does have quality pitchers, so maybe instead of Appel, they could trade Josh Hader or Michael Feliz?

Trade or no trade, Mark Appel will likely reach the majors in 2015, hopefully it will be with the Astros pitching behind Cole Hamels. If trading Appel was the only way to get Hamels, would you trade him?

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