Revisiting the Best Blockbuster Trades in Phillies History

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Lately, when channel surfing through the various sports networks that once brought such novelty and excitement to our lives, we receive a blast from the past as classic games of old fill our television screens. After a couple of throwback-game-filled weeks, I can’t help but think back to some of the big-time trades that helped construct the teams airing on the reruns. 

For example, MLB Network recently replayed Roy Halladay’s no-hit outing in the NLDS against Cincinnati, a highlight moment for the top-seeded 2011 Phils squad. Notably, that team boasted the fearsome, star-studded rotation that featured Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt. Three of those aces, as you may recall, were acquired via trade. 

This simple observation- more of a reminder, really- caused me to ponder some of the biggest trades in Phillies history. Furthermore, now that you’ve clicked on the link and opted for a little Phillies talk, you’ll be taking that journey with me. Let’s hop into it!

Wise Dealing

Phillies Trade Away: RHP Rick Wise

Phillies Acquire: LHP Steve Carlton

Date: February 25, 1972

After seven seasons in which he compiled a 77-62 record and 3.10 ERA with the Saint Louis Cardinals, southpaw starter Steve Carlton felt he was due for a raise- $10,000 worth of a raise to be exact. Cards owner Gussie Busch scoffed at this notion and opted to instead trade Carlton to the Phillies for right-hander Rick Wise- who was also in a contract dispute. 

This turned out to be one of the most lopsided, franchise-altering trades in Phillies history. Carlton, who received a new contract upon arrival in Philly, was absolutely sensational for the Phils. Aptly nicknamed “Lefty,” the superstar southpaw earned four NL Cy Young Awards while donning the red pinstripes and was a staple member of the World Series-winning 1980 Phillies team- the team’s first-ever title. 

Acquiring a serviceable player in return for a disgruntled player in the midst of a contract dispute would have been one thing. Snagging a future Hall of Famer and 4x Cy Young winner, however, is a slam dunk. Err, wait, wrong sport- a home run. And that’s exactly what the Phillies did in dealing for Carlton and why this trade ranks as a clear-cut number one on the list.

Adding the Exclamation Mark

Phillies Trade Away: OF Michael Bourn, RHP Geoff Geary, and INF Mike Costanzo

Phillies Acquire: RHP Brad Lidge

Date: November 7, 2007

Finally ending their painful, lengthy 13-year playoff drought after capturing the NL East in 2007, the Phillies were eager for more success moving forward and wanted to establish themselves as true heavyweights in the MLB arena. To do so, then Phillies GM Pat Gillick knew that he would need to bolster his bullpen. 

So, with the counsel of his scouts, Gillick flipped three players, including promising speedster and future all-star outfielder Michael Bourn for closer Brad Lidge. 

The move initially wasn’t met with too much excitement, as Lidge was coming off two lackluster seasons with the Astros. Things started to click for him again in Philly, however, as Lidge quickly established himself as the emphasis the Phils needed late in the ballgame. 

Lidge came out of the gates firing on all cylinders after a delayed season debut due to offseason medical procedures. He converted 12 saves and allowed a mere two runs the first two months of the season. He continued his hot stretch deep into the summer. His impressive efforts not only led to a three-year contract extension in July but also earned him his second all-star nod- his first and last with Philly. 

Announced as the closer before the game even began, the story goes that Lidge stretched roughly six times before entering the ASG in the 15th inning(!). He allowed the game-winning sacrifice fly and the American League won by a score of 4-3. Oddly enough, this would stand as the closest thing to a blown save for Lidge all season. 

Lidge finished the season having converted all 41 of his regular-season save opportunities before rattling off seven consecutive more conversions in the postseason. Including this magical, final frame in the 2008 World Series.

Along with closing out the Phillies second championship victory, Lidge became one of just seven big leaguers in history to convert 7+ save opportunities in the postseason. 

Lidge didn’t go on to have a particularly long career in Philly, but his miraculous, stainless 2008 season is reason enough to rank this trade number two on the list. 

Halladay Event in Philly

Phillies Trade Away: C Travis d’Arnaud, RHP Kyle Drabek, and OF Michael Taylor

Phillies Acquire: RHP Roy Halladay and cash 

Date: December 16, 2009

Roy ‘Doc’ Halladay was heavily sought after by ex-Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. for quite some time before finally donning the red pinstripes. After missing out on him at the trade deadline of 2009, Amaro Jr. wasn’t keen on allowing Halladay to escape his grasp twice that year. 

 After acquiring Halladay for what in hindsight is a laughable price, the Phillies boasted one of the most fearsome rotations the league has ever seen. And, in only four years with the team, the late Halladay made an impression that will last a lifetime.

Halladay was named the 2010 NL Cy Young Award winner, threw a perfect game against the Marlins in the same season, and also tossed a playoff no-hitter against the Reds in the 2011 NLDS. Although he was never able to capture the elusive championship he sought after, Halladay enjoyed a masterful career in Philly and his acquisition comes in at number 3 on the list. 

AL Cy Young winner Goes National

Phillies Trade Away: RHP Carlos Carrasco, C Lou Marson, INF Jason Donald, and RHP Jason Knapp

Phillies Acquire: LHP Cliff Lee and OF Ben Francisco

Date: July 29, 2009

Okay, so remember how I said Amaro Jr. was in heavy pursuit of Roy Halladay at the 2009 trade deadline but ultimately dropped out because the price was too steep? Well, despite missing out on Halladay, Amaro Jr. and the Phillies didn’t go empty-handed at the deadline. 

Instead, they flipped a few prospects and landed southpaw starter Cliff Lee, who was named the AL Cy Young Award winner just one year prior. 

Like the Halladay deal, it, unfortunately, didn’t result in a WS championship, but Lee’s first and second stint with the Phillies are well regarded.

His best season, perhaps, came in 2011- when he helped the Phillies claim the top seed with a 102-60 record. Lee went 17-9 with a 2.40 ERA and 238 strikeouts in 232 ⅔ innings of work. The southpaw finished third in the NL Cy Young Award voting that season- finishing behind teammate Roy Halladay and award winner Clayton Kershaw. 

He certainly wasn’t the flashiest pitcher in franchise history, but when he had it rolling, Lee was exceptional on the mound. Good enough, that I think the case can be made for his spot in the Hall of Fame.

Captain Curt

Phillies Trade Away: RHP Jason Grimsley

Phillies Acquired: RHP Curt Schilling

Date: April 2, 1992 

Speaking of Hall of Fame-worthy pitchers, the Phillies managed to land 3x WS Champion and 2001 WS MVP Curt Schilling for… Jason Grimsley?

Before his more famous second and third acts with the D-Backs and Red Sox in which he became a perennial Cy Young award contender, Schilling was harnessing his craft for the fightin’ Phils. 

Acquired in a deal for a floundering reliever with command issues, Schilling wound up playing nine seasons in Philly- including three consecutive all-star campaigns before they traded him to Arizona. Although he was much more decorated with Arizona and Boston, Schilling still accomplished some pretty cool feats in Philly- such as recording 300+ strikeouts in each of his final two full seasons with the team. 

There are plenty of other trades worth exploring. Hunter Pence from Houston, Jim Bunning from Detroit, and Bobby Abreu from Tampa Bay for example, but for the sake of time I’ll cut the list to just five.

So, are there any trades I missed? Do you disagree with the rankings or just want to reminisce over a few of these blockbuster deals? Leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to get back to each of them!

Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

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