Revisiting one trade the Phillies wish they could have back

If the Phillies had the chance to undo one trade in franchise history, this would be it.
Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg
Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg / Focus On Sport/GettyImages

Over the years, the Philadelphia Phillies have made many trades in the hopes that the assets they receive will help the team in some way. Of course, not all trades will come out as planned, as some could turn out better than expected, whereas others they probably wished never happened.

But there's one trade in the history of the Phillies franchise that they would surely want back, given how the player they gave away eventually turned into a superstar. That trade was the one involving Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg back in the early 1980s.

Revisiting one trade the Phillies wish they could have back 

Sandberg wasn’t necessarily a guaranteed star in the making at the time. After all, he was drafted late in the 20th round by the Phillies in the 1978 MLB Draft out of North Central High School in Spokane, Washington.

Nevertheless, Sandberg ended up spending four years in the Phillies’ minor league system, putting up some impressive numbers while displaying above-average speed and defense in the process. He was promoted up a minor league level following each successful season, all the way to his eventual MLB debut with the Phillies toward the end of the 1981 season as a September call-up.

However, Sandberg barely saw any action in a Phillies uniform. He was used primarily as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement toward the end of games. In total, he only received six at-bats and registered just one hit while scoring two runs along with a strikeout.

Without giving Sandberg much of a chance to showcase his talents and abilities, the Phillies may have jumped the gun during the 1981-82 offseason when they surprisingly dealt the promising infielder along with shortstop Larry Bowa to the Chicago Cubs for shortstop Iván De Jesús.

At the time, the Phillies and the aging Bowa couldn’t reach an agreement in contract extension negotiations. As a result, they found a trade partner in the Cubs who were willing to offer up De Jesús as Bowa’s replacement. However, Chicago also wanted a prospect as part of the deal.

With second and third base blocked by Manny Trillo and Mike Schmidt respectively, together with the Phillies failing to see a path for Sandberg as a future shortstop with the team, he ended up being the throw-in for the deal.

So much for being just a throw-in.

Ryne Sandberg turned into a Hall of Famer with the Cubs

Sandberg's career took off as he quickly became the Cubs’ starter at third base in 1982. He made the move to second base at the end of the season and the rest is history.

In Sandberg’s 15 years with Chicago, he amassed a stellar .285 batting average and .795 OPS, with 1,316 runs scored, 403 doubles, 76 triples, 282 home runs, 1,061 RBI, 344 stolen bases, 761 walks and 1,259 strikeouts in 2,151 games. He took home NL MVP honors in 1984, and was a 10-time All-Star, seven-time Silver Slugger and nine-time Gold Glove winner, proving that he was able to get things done on both sides of the field.

And, of course, just to rub salt into the Phillies' wounds, he was deservingly elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame as part of the 2005 class.

Ryne Sandberg eventually returned to the Phillies in a different role

At least all was not lost when Sandberg and the Phillies came full circle when he took over as the manager of the Phillies in 2013 following Charlie Manuel's firing. However, he was unable to lead Philadelphia to much success, compiling a 119-159 record and finishing no higher than fourth in the NL East in his three seasons with the team.

Looking back at the trade now, it seems like a total disaster. Not only did the Phillies give the Cubs a future Hall of Famer, they also shipped their former NL MVP finalist, two-time Gold Glove winner and five-time All-Star in Bowa along with Sandberg for De Jesús.

De Jesús anchored the shortstop position for the Phillies for three seasons but then turned into a player of non-significance. With the Phillies having the likes of superstars Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt leading the team in the early 1980s, who knows how many more World Series titles Philadelphia could have brought home than just the one they had in 1980 if they had added Sandberg into the mix.

The Phillies had to wait another 28 years before another star second baseman, Chase Utley, led the team to their second championship. As a result, we are left with the thought of what could have been if the Phillies had held onto Sandberg.