Revisiting The Jason Hammel Trade

The Rays roster is dotted with the spoils of trades involving excess starting pitchers. Matt Joyce arrived in the Edwin Jackson deal; the Rays obtained Sean Rodriguez when they sent Scott Kazmir to Anaheim and Chris Archer and others could soon join Sam Fuld on the roster and make Matt Garza’s departure easier to bear. But no matter how hard you look, you won’t see anyone from the trade that sent Jason Hammel to the Rockies exactly two years ago.

The Rays acquired Aneury Rodriguez for Hammel on this date in 2009 and the right-handed prospect spent two years in the Rays’ system, making it to Triple-A, where he spent most of last season. He pitched well in 2010, posting a 3.71 ERA in 123 2/3 innings with 7.3 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9. The 23-year-old became a reliable starter with four pitches that peak at average and are often fringy, according to Baseball America. 

It wasn’t enough for the Rays to protect him in the Rule 5 draft, but it was enough for the Astros to select him. Now a member of Houston’s bullpen, Rodriguez currently ranks 11th among top Astros prospects, according to Baseball America. Houston will have to offer Rodriguez back to the Rays if they determine that he isn’t worthy of a roster spot all season, so the Rays could still profit from the Hammel deal. As it stands now, however, the return they obtained has had zero impact on their MLB team.

It’s easy to see why the Rays didn’t get much for Hammel. He was out of options at the time and had just lost a springtime battle with Jeff Niemann for a spot in the rotation. Hammel had a career ERA of 5.90 at the time and had started just 28 MLB games,  so he was far from the established starter he has since become. Executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman made Hammel available, eventually trading him to obtain something of value instead of exposing him to waivers and losing him for nothing. 

In the two years that have passed since the deal, Hammel has a 4.57 ERA in 354 1/3 innings with 7.0 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. That was good for 7.5 wins above replacement in 2009-10, more than any starter on the Rays or Rockies other than Ubaldo Jimenez

The deal, which attracted little fanfare at the time, has turned into a steal for the Rockies. It may not be a franchise-altering trade like the one that saw the Rockies acquire Carlos Gonzalez and Huston Street, but Colorado obtained an inexpensive and effective starter for an unproven prospect who has yet to materialize at the Major League level – a definite coup for GM Dan O’Dowd.

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