It’s all on Vince Velasquez's shoulders now.
Vinny Velo is the last man standing from Matt Klentak’s first big trade as Phillies general manager. The power-armed right-hander took over that distinction Monday when the Phillies peddled pitcher Tom Eshelman to the Baltimore Orioles Monday in exchange for $1 million in international signing bonus money.
The Phillies acquired Velasquez and Eshelman, along with pitchers Mark Appel, Brett Oberholtzer and Harold Arauz, from the Houston Astros in exchange for reliever Ken Giles and minor-league infielder Jonathan Arauz in December 2015.
Giles was coming off a big season as Phillies closer and was considered a luxury for a rebuilding team. Klentak packaged him and Jonathan Arauz and sent them to the rising Astros for five pitchers.
Oberholtzer pitched in the rotation and out of the bullpen and was waived in August of his first season with the Phils.
Harold Arauz briefly reached Triple A with the Phillies and mostly struggled at Double A. He became a minor-league free agent after last season and is currently pitching to a 6.56 ERA in the Cardinals’ system.
Appel was the lottery ticket in the deal, a two-time first-round draft pick who went No. 1 overall in 2013. The Phils hoped a move from Houston to Philadelphia would unlock his huge potential. It didn’t. He struggled with injury and ineffectiveness and left the game during the 2017 season.
Not blessed with overpowering stuff, Eshelman was a legendary strike thrower at Cal State Fullerton and he initially shined in the Phillies’ system. He won the Paul Owens Award as the organization’s top minor-league pitcher in 2017 when he went 13-3 with a 2.40 ERA in 23 starts at Double A and Triple A.
Eshelman was invited to big-league camp in the spring of 2018, but he struggled during the regular season. He opened this season at Double A and made his last four starts at Triple A, allowing just eight runs in 26 innings.
The Phillies still might end up turning Eshelman into something in the future with that extra international money.
As for the Houston side of that initial trade, Giles was part of an Astros team that won the World Series in 2017. He had 34 saves for that club. He is now with Toronto and pitching quite well. It’s not out of the question that the Phillies look to reacquire him in the coming weeks as they seek bullpen help.
Jonathan Arauz, still just 20, remains in the low minors with the Astros.
From a Phillies perspective, Velasquez was always the centerpiece of that initial trade with Houston. He is in his fourth season in the majors with the Phils. He was inconsistent in three seasons as a starter and is now filling an important role in the bullpen.
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