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A brief history of Phillies deadline trades

By Matt Albertson, Historical Columnist 
 
The non-waiver trade deadline is at 4pm today, July 31. In June, many pundits considered the Phillies to be aggressive at the deadline in an effort to bolster the left side of the infield, right field, and/or the bullpen but on the eve of the deadline, the only trade the club has made was adding Asdrubel Cabrera from the Mets in exchange for Double-A pitching prospect Franklyn Kilome. Will the Phillies make another deal by 4pm? Maybe. But what we do know, or assume, is that the team will look to bolster their bench or bullpen tomorrow, if anything. 
 
Over the past 32 years since 1986, the Phillies have made a few headline trades that I'll review here. In 1986, the non-waiver trade deadline moved from the June 15 to July 31. This brief overview will begin with trading an ace and end with trading for an ace.
 
First up, the disgruntled Curt Schilling. Schilling was basically a lost relief pitcher trying to find his way in the big leagues when the Phillies acquired him in April 1992 for Jason Grimsley. In 1993 he became a staff ace helping the club to the unlikeliest National League pennant in recent memory. In nine years with the Phillies, Schilling won 101 games, the most wins he had with any one club, and made three straight All-Star appearances in 1997, 1998, and 1999. Unfortunately the Phillies couldn't recapture the Macho Row magic from 1993 and by 1997 Schilling began to request a trade to a contender. The soap opera continued into the 2000 during Schilling's age 33 season. The ace told the club he'd waive his no trade clause to go to the Yankees, Mets, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Indians, or Braves. 
 
The situation was challenging for the Phillies, who under GM Ed Wade finally began to fill the farm system with players who they thought - and would - make a difference at the big league level; Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell, and Chase Utley. A veteran presence could help these players develop into bonafide big leaguers but Schilling wanted out. The club also had to consider that their ace was in his middle 30s and already had two shoulder operations. How long would Schilling remain a viable ace? To top it off, Schilling was in his second-to-last year of a contract and if the Phillies didn't trade him in 2000, he could make extension negotiations incredibly painful for the club and/or refuse to waive his no trade clause and further limit where the club could deal him. Finally, on July 26, 2000 the Phillies dealt Schilling to the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitchers Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa, Vicente Padilla and first baseman Travis Lee. Daal was the top piece in the return for Schilling but proved to be exceptionally mediocre while Padilla turned out to be the best acquisition of the trade, eventually earning an All-Star appearance in 2002.  Schilling of course went on two form one of the greatest pitching tandems in baseball history when he joined with Randy Johnson. The two carried the expansion Diamondbacks to the 2001 World Series title. 
 
Schilling was the Phillies best pitcher in the organization but Scott Rolen was the crown jewel. Rolen debuted in 1996 and dazzled fans and the media alike with his acrobatic plays at third base and his combination of power and base running savvy. He was a true five-tool player. In his first full season in 1997, he won the National League Rookie of the Year award in a class that included Livan Hernandez, Andruw Jones, and Vladimir Guerrero - all from NL East clubs. More importantly, Mike Liberthal and Rico Brogna made their full season debuts. In the ensuing seasons, Doug Glanville and Bobby Abreu were acquired via trades and inserted into an improving Phillies lineup.

But in 2000, injuries and and loses piled up and the club began to sell off players as they finished the season with 97 losses in a year that began with visions of a winning record for the first time since 1993. It sent a message to Rolen - right or wrong - that the Phillies weren't willing to spend patience or money to build a winner.

In 2001, Rolen rejected a 10-year, $140 million extension, questioning the club's commitment to winning and demanded a trade. It didn't help that his relationship with Wall of Fame player and then manager Larry Bowa was poor. Rolen was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals along with Doug Nickle and cash in exchange for Placido Polanco, Bud Smith and Mike Timlin. Polanco played well for the Phillies in his first stint with the club over four seasons.

Without a doubt, the Phillies lost the Schilling and Rolen trades. None of the players the Phillies received in return made a difference at the big league level in terms of driving the club to the postseason. Schilling wound up winning two World Series titles with Arizona and Boston, including his infamous performance against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS on a sutured tendon. Rolen continued his acrobatic play in St. Louis and won a World Series with the team in 2006. Both players are, in my opinion, serious considerations for induction into the Hall of Fame. Forget what they said or were assumed to have said to the media or on social media, inside the lines, both players deserve a healthy look by BBWAA voters. 

Now that we've got the irritating and painful trades out of the way, it's time to focus on trades that brought the Phillie faithful serious jubilee. The Phillies were a favorite to repeat as National League champion following their run to the 2008 World Series championship. After Cole Hamels, the Phillies rotation in the summer of 2009 included Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ, Jamie Moyer, Chan Ho Park and Brett Myers. New GM Ruben Amaro had his eyes set on the cream of the crop: Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay. But when talks with Toronto broke down because Philadelphia wouldn't include top prospect Domonic Brown, Amaro focused his efforts on Cliff Lee. Lee was 22-3 with a 2.54 in 2008, good enough for the AL Cy Young Award. 

The trade deadline was all Phillies fans could talk or think about in 2009 leading up to the final days of July. The Phillies struck a deal with Cleveland that sent Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson and Jason Knapp to the Indians in exchange for Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco. Carrasco, Donald and Marson were highly touted prospects in the Phillies organization, who felt that Donald and Marson would develop and continue the success the club started a few years prior. Consistency is important if an organization wants to be considered among the upper echelon of major league clubs. But the Phillies were in a unique "win now" position. Trading for Lee proved to be an overwhelming success. The fanbase fell in love with the player and vice versa. Lee helped lead the club back to the World Series and although they lost to the Yankees in the fall classic, he provided arguably the most memorable moment of that series with his nonchalant catch in the sixth inning in Game One. 

Todd Zolecki and Jim Salisbury detailed the strange situation in the offseason that still has fans scratching their heads. In their book The Rotation, Zolecki and Salisbury explain that the club was in a precarious position. It was no secret that the Phillies wanted to bolster their rotation with Roy Halladay. But keeping Cliff Lee proved to be problematic. Lee and his agent Darek Braunecker wanted Philadelphia to extend Lee's contract. Under advice from adviser and former GM Pat Gillick, the club did not feel comfortable offering the ace a long-term extension. Their core players were either already in large contracts or would be up for sizable extensions soon. With that in mind, the Phillies braintrust offered Lee a three year deal at $18 million per year. The money was good but Lee and Braunecker wanted more years. The Phillies also had reservations about locking up a pitcher like Lee, who just a few years prior had been sent down to Triple A and had some injury concerns, to a long term contract that would cover not only prime years but also post-prime. 

The Phillies acquired Halladay in December 2009 in exchange for Travis d'Arnaud, Kyle Drabek, and Michael Taylor. Combined with the prospects from the Lee trade at the 2009 deadline, the Phillies farm system was depleted. While club president David Montgomery never told Amaro that he couldn't keep Lee and sign the pitcher to an extension, he made it known that doing so would risk the club's ability to resign core players to lucrative deals and remain competitive in the long term. Amaro felt the smart option was to trade Lee and that's what he did after Halladay was acquired. Lee was sent to Seattle for Phillippe Aumont, J.C. Ramierez, and Tyson Gillies.  The return proved to be a complete loss. But it did set up another quality acquisition on the road to arguably the greatest starting rotation in major league history. 

In 2010, the Phillies were again one of the favorites to represent the National League in the World Series. Halladay proved to be a terrific acquisition and the rotation was one of the best in baseball with Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer. But Moyer hit the DL in July with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and strained flexor pronator tendon in his left elbow. 

Amaro and the Phillies were very interested in reacquiring Cliff Lee from Seattle, who's season began with pennant dreams but limped to the deadline as another failed campaign. Unfortunately, Seattle required top prospect Domonic Brown to be included in the trade whom Philadelphia considered untouchable. Instead, they turned their attention to Houston, where veteran ace Roy Oswalt requested a trade to either Texas or St. Louis in order to stay close to his home in Weir, Mississippi. As the deadline approached, Astros GM Ed Wade continued to field offers from other teams. Oswalt wanted a shot at World Series redemption and wanted to be traded to a contender, and Philadelphia fit the bill. The Phillies agreed to trade J.A. Happ to Houston to fill the hole left by Oswalt in their rotation and also offered Jonathan Villar and Anthony Gose. After agreeing to deal Gose to Toronto for Brett Wallace, the deal was in place. Philadelphia acquired another front line starter in Roy Oswalt to replace the injured Jamie Moyer on July 29, 2010. 

Although the acquisitions of Lee and Oswalt at the trade deadlines didn't end in World Series victory, it marked a turn in Phillies trade deadline history. It proved to fans that the team was willing to push their chips into the middle of the table to bring multiple championships to the championship starved city. It was the golden era of Phillies baseball. Although trading Lee to Seattle is still a head scratcher for Phillies fans, it was ultimately one of the necessary transactions to bring the greatest pitching rotation to the City of Brotherly Love. The club probably doesn't acquire Oswalt if they signed Lee to an extension in 2009 or if they traded for Lee instead of Oswalt at the 2010 deadline. 

 

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