Over the next two weeks, in conjunction with the run-up to the July 31 trade deadline, Phillies Nation will be presenting the Top 10 Trades in Phillies History. Consideration was given to the performance of the players traded with their new club v. the performance of the players acquired with the Phillies in addition to heavily weighing the success of the Phillies once the trade was completed.
This series will be immediately followed by the Top 10 Worst Trades in Phillies History, starting approximately on July 7.
Jimmy Rollins proclaimed the 2007 Philadelphia Phillies as the team to beat in the NL East. After a remarkable late season surge, erasing a 7 ½ game lead with just 17 to play, the Phillies found themselves NL East champions for the first time since 1993. The man on the mound to close out the clincher? Starter-turned-closer Brett Myers.
Myers was one of 21 pitchers to appear out of the bullpen that season for the Phillies, joining more memorable Phils like J.C. Romero, Jose Mesa, and Clay Condrey and blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em Phils like John Ennis, Joe Bisenius, and Anderson Garcia in a bullpen that ranked 24th in MLB in ERA, 26th in K/9 IP, and 24th in HR/9 IP. Looking for bullpen stability after their first-round sweep at the hands of the Colorado Rockies, General Manager Pat Gillick was looking to make a splash to upgrade the bullpen of a team with the best offense in the Majors per fWAR.
There were two players that allowed Gillick to make such a move. The development of “The Flyin’ Hawai’ian” Shane Victorino into an above-average everyday regular outfielder at age 26 (.281/.347/.423 with 12 HR and 37 SB in 510 PA in 2007) and the emergence of Jayson Werth at age 28 (.298/.404/.459 with 8 HR and 7 SB in 304 PA in 2007) gave the Phillies a pair of cheap, controllable outfielders through the 2012 and 2008 seasons respectively. A robust outfield free agent market helped make the Phils decision easier as well: even if Gillick wasn’t sold on Werth as an everyday option in right, and he wasn’t, there were a number of players available, like Geoff Jenkins, who the Phillies would ink to a two-year deal, that could give the Phillies insurance in the outfield.
With the Phillies comfortable in their outfield situation with Victorino, Werth, and Pat Burrell all locked up through 2008, Gillick decided that he could use one of his biggest trade chips, outfield prospect Michael Bourn to lure an opposing GM’s ace reliever. Bourn was a fast-rising outfielder, a fourth-round selection from the University of Houston in 2003, that made his debut with the Phillies in 2006. After earning time as Charlie Manuel’s preferred pinch-runner and defensive replacement through much of the season, Bourn would miss all of August and some of September after hurting himself on a diving catch attempt at Wrigley Field in the seventh inning.
Gillick took a calculated risk, sending Bourn, reliever Geoff Geary, and 2005 second-round pick, Springfield, PA native infielder Mike Costanzo, to Houston for closer Brad Lidge and utility man Eric Bruntlett. The initial reaction to the trade was a lot of head scratching: yes, the Phillies needed bullpen help, and a utility infielder wouldn’t hurt either, but Lidge was coming off the two worst seasons of his career.
In 2005, Lidge seemingly had his psyche shaken by an Albert Pujols homer that may not yet have landed. Lidge would also take two losses in the ’05 Fall Classic, allowing a walk-off homer to Scott Podsednik in Game Two and the eventual game-winning Jermaine Dye single in the eighth inning of Game 4. In 2006, Lidge’s ERA skyrocketed to 5.28 and in 2007, it came back down to earth at 3.36 but he had been removed from Houston’s closer role for much of the season with his K/9 IP dwindling and his BB/9 IP increasing.
Yet, the risk paid off for Gillick and the Phillies, even if just for one or two years. Lidge would appear in 72 games for the Phillies, posting a 1.95 ERA, saving 41 in 41 chances in 2008. Posting a career-low HR/9 IP, Lidge carried his success into the postseason, converting seven of seven save opportunities in the playoffs out of eleven Phillie wins, including the save in Game 5 of the World Series which clinched the Fall Classic for the Phils. In the middle of the 2008 season, Gillick signed Lidge to a three-year, $36 million pact that would keep Lidge in Philly through the 2011 season. For his 2008 performance, Lidge earned an All-Star birth and finished fourth in Cy Young voting and helped the Phillies lead the NL in bullpen ERA.
Lidge would disappoint in 2009, posting an 0-8 record with 31 saves and a 7.21 ERA while battling injuries but was a solid player for the rest of his tenure, going 1-3 with a 2.49 ERA in 75 games with 28 saves across 2010 and 2011. Lidge is one of the Phillies’ best postseason relievers in club history, as well, posting a 1.77 ERA with a .203 BAA with a 1-1 record and 12 saves, effectively eviscerating the ghosts of his postseason past.
Bruntlett would do little for the Phillies offensively in 2008 and 2009 but did provide defensive relief at every position but catcher. Bruntlett would hit just .202/.273/.278 with only two homers and eleven steals but did manage to create a few memorable moments for Phils fans to remember him by: Bruntlett would score the game-winning runs as a pinch-runner in Games Three and Five of the 2008 World Series, hit a homer in Game Two of the same World Series, and turned an unassisted triple play on August 23, 2009.
As for Bourn, he would become a pretty solid ballplayer in his own right. Bourn would win three-straight NL stolen base titles from 2009 through 2011. Bourn would be named to the NL All-Star squad in 2010, with Houston and 2012 with Atlanta after being dealt in a 2011 deadline deal. Following a career year in 2012, worth 6.1 wins according to FanGraphs, Bourn inked a four-year, $48 million deal with a vesting option for a fifth year at $12 million in 2017.
Geary would have a career-year in 2008, posting a career-low 2.53 ERA in 64 IP but would be out of the Majors following a 8.10 ERA in 16 games for the 2009 Astros. Geary would last play organized ball for the Albuquerque Isotopes in 2010 before wrapping up in 2011 in the independent Atlantic League with York. Costanzo, now 30, is playing for Triple-A Louisville in Cincinnati’s system. Costanzo would finally earn a cup of coffee in the Majors at age 28 in 2012 but hit just .056/.095/.056.
From a value perspective, the Phillies gave up more long-term in Bourn than they received short-term in Lidge. But, Bourn had nowhere to play and the Phillies won a World Series. Can you put a value on a World Series win? For the 2008 perfect season, and Lidge’s postseason success, the Phillies acquiring Brad Lidge is the tenth-best trade in Phillies’ history.