During MLB’s ongoing lockout, we’ll be looking back on the history of the Philadelphia Phillies, revisiting the good, the bad, and the ugly moments of one of baseball’s oldest franchises.
As the theme song from the iconic 90s sitcom Full House goes, in the lengthy history of the Philadelphia Phillies, it seems like there’s a bad trade ‘everywhere you look.’
Six years ago this week, then-GM Matt Klentak, barely a month into his tenure, made his first big trade: closer Ken Giles and prospect Jonathan Araúz to the Houston Astros in exchange for Vince Velasquez, Mark Appel, Thomas Eshelman, Harold Arauz, and Brett Oberholtzer.
The Vince Velasquez trade was one of many failed moments in the Phillies’ rebuild
At the time, the Phillies were coming off a last-place 63-99 season. In September 2015, they’d dismissed Ruben Amaro Jr. – who’d risen from former Phillie to Phillies GM over the decades – and replaced him with Klentak.
The trade was the first of Klentak’s many attempts to rebuild the Phillies, though he never really succeeded. It was also a clear indicator of the franchise’s inability to develop pitching prospects; every player the Phillies received in the trade was a pitcher.
It also has to be one of the only times an MLB trade involved a swap of players with the same last name.
Velasquez’s Phillies debut came in early April 2016, and he struck out nine Mets over six shutout innings. In his next start, he struck out a career-high 16 Padres, which would become somewhat ironic in 2021, because he signed with San Diego after being released by the Phillies.
For six years, Velasquez coasted on his early success. Across 133 games with the Phillies, he compiled a 4.93 ERA over 582 2/3 innings. In fact, his best season with the club was his first; it was pretty much entirely downhill in the years that followed.
The 2016 Phillies did improve to 71-91 and fourth place, but the club wouldn’t have a winning season again until 2021.
What happened to the players from this Phillies trade?
Of all the players involved in the 2015 trade, only Appel remains with the franchise with whom he landed. After debuting with the Orioles in 2019, Eshelman is now a free agent. Oberholtzer didn’t even last a full season with the Phillies; they designated him for assignment by August, and he was claimed off waivers by the Angels. He is also technically a free agent but has not been with an MLB team since 2018.
The Red Sox selected Jonathan Araúz in the 2019 Rule 5 Draft. He made his debut with them on Opening Day 2020, but has spent the bulk of his time in Triple-A. Harold Arauz has not pitched for any MiLB team after 2019.
At the 2018 trade deadline, the Astros traded Giles, Héctor Pérez, and David Paulino to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for a far more controversial closer, Roberto Osuna, who was in the middle of serving one of the lengthiest domestic violence suspensions in MLB history. Giles then signed with the Mariners ahead of the 2021 season.
Will the MLB lockout impact the 2022 schedule?
If the lockout does not seriously impact the 2022 schedule, the Phillies and Astros will meet on Opening Day in Houston. It would be a full-circle moment if any of the players from the 2015 trade were still there.