With the glory years clearly in the rearview mirror, I continue to review the major transactions that led up to the best period in Philadelphia Phillies history, and how it impacts the team today and going forward. Previous articles in the series can be seen here and here.
Today’s focus: July 30, 2006 — the Phillies trade Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle to the New York Yankees for minor leaguers C.J. Henry, Jesus Sanchez, Matt Smith and Carlos Monasterios.
Background: Abreu had arguably been the face of the Phillies Organization for five years. Consistently a solid and underappreciated player on a perennially middling team, Abreu’s talents finally started to get noticed in 2004 and 2005 when he made the All-Star team, won the Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove to boot.
When Pat Gillick took over as GM, he made the case that the Phillies were still a few years away from being competitive, and decided to put their best veteran on the trading block.
Evaluation for Yankees: Abreu continued his excellent 2006 season with the Yankees, helping them run away with the NL East. He stayed two more full seasons with the Yankees and hit over 100 RBIs in each of them. Lidle had an ERA above five in the remaining games in ’06 before tragically passing away that offseason.
Evaluation for Phillies: Henry, the prospect the trade was built around, was a former first-round pick. He played awfully with the Phillies, was released after the 2007 season and has since turned to basketball. Smith, a reliever, pitched nine games in 2007 for the Phils with an ERA above 11. He had Tommy John surgery and was eventually designated for assignment.
Sanchez bounced around the Phils’ minor league system as both a catcher and a pitcher before being released. Monasterios was stolen away in the Rule 5 draft in 2009 and went on to have moderate major league success, albeit not with the Phillies.
Who Won?: This trade was an unmitigated disaster for the Phillies. Not a single one of the prospects spent meaningful time with the Phillies, whereas Abreu helped the Yankees continue their success over the next three seasons. Abreu has recently returned to the Phillies.
The benefit here for the Phillies comes in the periphery. Abreu, along with Randy Wolf, Pat Burrell, Mike Lieberthal, Jon Lieber and Marlon Byrd represented the old establishment. It was determined that the team constructed around that core was not going to compete for a World Series, and Gillick needed to begin building around the new core that was beginning to pop up from the minors.
The Abreu trade allowed for the biggest pillar from that old guard to be replaced by the likes of Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Shane Victorino. The impact of this change is not calculable.
What If They Didn’t Trade Abreu?: In all likelihood, the Yankees still would have won the division (they were eliminated in the ALDS that season anyway) and would have found another outfielder to fill their hole, as is the Yankees’ way. Abreu would have continued with the Phillies and continued his personal glory years in red pinstripes as opposed to the black ones. However, the leadership qualities of Howard, Rollins and Utley that were so important to their golden age run would have temporarily been stunted.
Additionally, with Abreu still manning right field along with Aaron Rowand in center and Pat Burrell in left, there would have been no room for Shane Victorino to step up into Abreu’s spot in the lineup (as he did) and prove to be a vital cog in the World Series run, let alone Jayson Werth after him.
The Phillies traded Abreu at his peak value and still got junk in return, so it is impossible to say whether they would have received a better package in return if they waited to trade him in the offseason or traded him the previous one along with Jim Thome. However, despite the lack of return for their most valuable asset, it was a trade the Phillies had to make at the time. The move had untold psychological and interpersonal impacts on the Golden Age roster, as well as the current one.
What’s Next? Jamie Moyer