How the Brad Lidge Trade Set the Tone for the Philadelphia Phillies’ Golden Age
With the glory years clearly in the rear view mirror, I have been reviewing the major transactions that led up to the best period in Philadelphia Phillies history and how it impacts the team today. The past three articles can be found here, here and here.
Today’s focus is on the November 7, 2007 Phillies trade of Geoff Geary, Michael Bourn and Mike Costanzo to the Houston Astros for Brad Lidge and Eric Bruntlett
Background: The Phillies won the 2007 NL East in dramatic fashion before being swept by the pennant-bound Colorado Rockies in the NLDS. After closer Tom Gordon was put on the disabled list, the Phillies recalled opening day starter Brett Myers from Triple-A (he was demoted earlier in the season) to serve as their closer for the stretch run. In the offseason, GM Pat Gillick chose to acquire one of the best closers in the game and made the trade for Brad Lidge.
Evaluation for Astros: Geary ended up having a career year for Houston in 2008, pitching 64 innings with a career-low 2.53 ERA. He would subsequently fall out of the majors the following season, bounce around the minors and is now 37 years of age in the Atlantic League.
Costanzo was a homegrown local first-round prospect who was at one point the future at third base for the Phillies. He was traded a month later as part of a package to the Baltimore Orioles for Miguel Tejada. Tejada led the majors in GIDP both of his season in Houston.
Bourn, long one of the Phillies’ top outfield prospects, was the key to the deal and was considered a surplus with Shane Victorino manning center field. Bourn would develop into one of the better outfielders in the game, frequently using his renowned speed to lead the league in stolen bases, and he was one of last offseason’s top free agents. He is now a member of the Cleveland Indians.
Evaluation for Phillies: Bruntlett would have his best years as a reserve during the Phillies’ two World Series seasons. Despite only hitting .217 during the 2008 regular season, he hit a home run in Game 2 of the World Series and memorably scored the winning run in Game 3 on Carlos Ruiz’s love tap down the third base line. Not to be forgotten, Bruntlett also scored the Championship-clinching run when he was a pinch-runner for Pat Burrell after his iconic double following the day-long rain delay. In 2009, he notably ended a game against the New York Mets by completing an unassisted triple play.
Brad Lidge became an icon in the city after being a perfect 48-for-48 and striking out Eric Hinske to clinch Philadelphia’s first World Series since 1980. Accolades followed and he became one of the faces of the Golden Age. The team returned to the World Series in 2009 despite a catastrophic season where he blew 11 saves and had an ERA north of seven.
Who Won?: This is a clear win for the Phillies. Despite Bourn’s ability, Lidge became iconic following his 2008 perfect season and was instrumental to the team winning the World Series. That alone justifies the trade. Bruntlett’s playoff contributions are icing on top.
What If They Didn’t Trade for Lidge?: The Phillies would have either traded for another closer giving up a similar package to what Lidge cost, continued with Brett Myers as the closer or promoted Ryan Madson to closer. The Phillies would have been without one of their most important elements in 2008 and would have also been without one of their more consistent starters in 2008 (Myers).
Because of 2008, an uncomfortable truth is that the Phillies likely would have won the 2009 World Series if not for Brad Lidge. It is impossible to say if that would be the case had they never traded for Lidge in the first place, but it is an interested anecdote to consider.
Bourn would have remained on the team and taken over center field for the departed Aaron Rowand. This would have kept Victorino in right field and Jayson Werth on the bench to never emerge as the force he eventually became.
Regarding the current team, Lidge’s initial dominance and subsequent derailment (and the success the ebbed and flowed with it) likely had a large hand in the Phillies’ decision to put a premium on the closer position which led to the signing of Jonathan Papelbon.
What’s Next?: Joe Blanton