By Theo DeRosa, Sports Talk Philly staff
The expansion draft of 1997 established the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Arizona Diamondbacks as MLB franchises. In the draft, they were allowed to choose among the unprotected players of the other 28 teams, with 15 protected players from each organization off-limits.
With the sixth pick of the first round, the Rays took a second-year right fielder from the Houston Astros, but decided he wouldn't be long for Tampa Bay. They flipped him to the Philadelphia Phillies for starting shortstop Kevin Stocker in what seemed a shrewd move at the time. Stocker, though, declined from a .324/.409/.417 rookie season in 1993, and ended up a .254/.338/.343 career hitter, out of MLB by just 2000.
The outfielder he was traded for in that expansion draft went on to prodigious success in Major League Baseball and with the Phillies.
Bobby Abreu was one of the best hitters in MLB during a career which stretched from 1996 to an attempt at a comeback year with the New York Mets in 2014. He compiled a .291/.395/.475 line and bashed 288 career home runs. Abreu was one of the best of his era in terms of reaching base, 78th-best all-time, including a career-high mark of .446 in 1999. That year, Abreu hit .335/.446/.549 for an astounding .995 and somehow finished just 23rd in NL MVP voting (Barry Bonds, who had a slugging percentage of .617 that year and an OPS of 1.006, finished 24th).
Abreu played eight full seasons with the Phillies, quietly building a strong legacy in an otherwise forgettable era. He was named an All-Star in both 2004 and 2005, winning a Silver Slugger award in 2004 and a Gold Glove in 2005. Abreu was traded along with pitcher Cory Lidle to the New York Yankees in July of 2006 for a haul of prospects.