Cards on the Table: Best Free Agents and Trades


I’ve come to the realization that many of my posts about the Phillies tend to take a negative tone.

Not so today. Or, at least, not so with this one.

This week’s installment of “Cards on the Table” will focus on the happy times, the joyous times, the times of milk and honey, the salad days, the times when we were young and danced free in the meadows to music that wasn’t even there.

You know, the time before this week’s inevitable Winter Meetings disappointment that is burying us all in a smog of melancholy.

With the way money is being thrown around in Nashville so far this week (a three-year, $24 million deal for Marco Scutaro??? Really???), the Phillies have been quiet so far. But that only means Amaro is looking for the right deal.

Amazingly, three years and $38 million for Shane Victorino ain’t it. Huh.

It hasn’t been often that Phils’ management has made great deals in the offseason. But occasionally, past GMs have come through brilliantly.

Yes, even Ed Wade.

In fact, perhaps the greatest trade in the free agent era for the Phils happened under Eddie Wade’s watch.

Kevin Stocker for Bobby Abreu.

Stocker was a nice addition to the 1993 NL champs, a team that needed a stabilizing force at shortstop. And amazingly, Stocker, who was just a rookie, provided all that and more, hitting well over .300 in the second half of the season. However, after that, he was nothing more than an average player.

Somehow, through drugs or a seductive voodoo dance that none of us would ever hope to want to see, Ed Wade managed to acquire a young player from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays named Bobby Abreu.

Nice to meet you, Bob Abreu. 1999 Topps Stadium Club

Some folks called him Bob.

In nine years with the Phillies, Abreu hit .303/.416/.513 for an OPS of .928 with 195 HRs, 814 RBIs, 348 2Bs, 42 3Bs, and 254 SBs. He made two All-Star teams with the Phillies, had two 30/30 seasons, and won an ill-rewarded Gold Glove as well.

Stocker, meanwhile, played just three more seasons after that, hitting .237/.322/.330. He played in 301 games for the Devil Rays and Angels, and was out of baseball after the 2000 season at the age of 30.

Friends, THAT’S a good trade.

The Phillies have also struck it rich in free agency a couple times too. In trying to narrow down the best free agent signing in the history of the franchise, I couldn’t decide between two players, so we’re making them 1A and 1B.

When the Phillies signed Pete Rose away from the Cincinnati Reds in 1979, it was the catalyst that led the Phils to their first World Series title in 1980.

Has anyone ever gone into a barbershop and said, “I’ll have the Pete Rose?” 1979 Topps

Pete also helped get the Phillies back to the Series in 1983, although by that time, his game had diminished rapidly.

In five years in Philadelphia, Rose’s OPS+ was only 101, but he hit .291 with a .365 OBP and more importantly, helped the team get over the emotional hump and past their NLCS demons. He was the perfect fit for the perfect price for that ballclub.

Twenty-four years later, Jim Thome agreed to help end an era of mind-numbing futility and join a Phillies franchise that desperately needed a high profile signing to put them back on the map.

Thome’s arrival also meant the end of the Travis Lee era, which would have placed him high on the list anyway.

Good heavens, baseball card-making really went off the rails in the 2000s. Jim Thome 2003 Topps

But what Thome did, aside from bash one massive home run after another, was usher in a new era. He helped show other potential free agents that Philadelphia was a viable baseball destination once again.

And even though he was traded out of town in 2005, well before his contract was up, he still hit 101 HRs in parts of four seasons with Philadelphia, including a dynamic ’03 season in which he hit a league-leading 47, followed by 42 more in 2004.

The hope is Ruben Amaro can strike some similar magic in the next few weeks. But with all the money being thrown at marginal players, the market does not seem to be flowing his way.

But maybe, just maybe, there’s another Bobby Abreu deal out there somewhere.

See? I told you this was going to be a feel-good post!

What? Hamilton’s going to the Rangers?

Never mind.