The Philadelphia Phillies “traded” pitcher Jake Thompson to the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday. In exchange the Phillies received…cash. Not an intriguing prospect named “Cash”, just plain cash, as in money.
In effect, the Phillies sold Thompson to a National League Wildcard playoff rival. There is no other way to color this transaction than the Phillies giving up on Thompson.
Though details on the exact “why” were not announced, the likelihood is that the Brewers claimed Thompson after the Phillies designated him for assignment on Friday. That move was done in order to make room on the roster for the newly acquired Justin Bour.
With the claim, the Phillies would have three choices. Pull him back and DFA someone else. Let him go to the Brewers for nothing. Or cut some type of deal with Milwaukee.
GM Matt Klentak was obviously offered some amount of cash that he felt comfortable receiving back from Brew Crew GM David Stearns in order to surrender Thompson.
All of this begs the question, why Thompson? Why did the Phillies choose to DFA a 24-year-old pitcher who in seven minor league seasons has surrendered fewer hits than innings pitched, has produced a 3.55 ERA over 669 innings, and who just two years ago was the 2016 International League Most Valuable Pitcher?
There were other options. The club could have chosen to DFA someone like Mitch Walding, a soon-to-be 26-year-old. Walding is enjoying a nice season with the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs. However, he is nowhere to be found on any list or discussion of top Phillies prospects. He is an “organizational” guy available for positional depth at best.
The club could have chosen from a number of other similar pitchers rather than Thompson. Right-handers Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr, Yacksel Rios, and Drew Anderson. Lefties Adam Morgan or Jose Taveras.
These would have been the other candidates. You can make a legitimate argument that none has higher upside than Thompson. It’s hard to see any reason that Taveras was kept over Thompson other than the age-old baseball love for left-handed pitchers of nearly any skill level.
If you’re wondering whether the Phillies could have chosen to DFA catcher Andrew Knapp, the answer is both yes and no. The backup backstop turns 27-years-old in early November and has slashed .217/.310/.354 while demonstrating questionable defensive ability at best behind the plate.
However, with Wilson Ramos still on the DL at the time that the Bour move needed to be made, Knapp and Jorge Alfaro were the lone catchers on the 40-man roster. There is no way that you can play with just one legitimate catcher. So, while results and upside might mean Knapp could go, short-term practicality meant that he could not.
None of this is to say that Thompson didn’t have his own issues, command and control chief among them. With the Phillies, Thompson had allowed 4.7 walks for every nine innings pitched. Over 16.1 innings with the big club this season that BB/9 average was at the unsightly 6.1 mark.
His minor league record reveals just a 3.2 BB/9 figure over 144 games, 118 of those starts. However, this year his 5.0 mark revealed regression. Perhaps the Phillies simply didn’t think that he was fixable.
There is also always the possibility that some situation was going on behind the scenes to which we aren’t privy. Some personal or disciplinary problem. But that would be nothing more than pure speculation.
What we do know is that the Phillies now have given up on half the return which they received from the Texas Rangers in the Cole Hamels trade three years ago.
Thompson was considered a big part of that deal at the time. He had been the Detroit Tigers second round pick in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft out of a Texas high school. Detroit dealt him along with Corey Knebel at the approach of the 2014 trade deadline to the Rangers in exchange for reliever Joakim Soria.
Almost exactly two years ago at this time, Thompson was making just his second MLB start. In earning his first big league win with a five-inning effort against the Colorado Rockies at Citizens Bank Park he also made a little Phillies history.
Thompson struck out four Rockies batters in the second inning of that contest. In doing so he became the first Phillies pitcher ever and the 80th in MLB history to accomplish the feat.
Also gone from the Hamels deal is lefty pitcher Matt Harrison, who was never going to pitch for the Phillies. He had career-ending injury issues that the club new about at the time of the trade, and his inclusion was simply the Phillies taking on a contract in order to obtain a better prospect package.
Right-handed pitcher Alec Asher was basically given away to the Baltimore Orioles. He was dealt at the end of spring training in 2017 for cash considerations or a player to be named later who was never named. Odds are that some small amount of cash was passed between the two organizations.
The Phillies are not likely to miss Thompson very much in the long run. That they felt capable of giving up on a talented pitcher who still projects to have some upside says something positive about the state of the organizational pitching options.
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