Gillick’s Got It: Trades Signal End of One Era, Beginning of Another

When I initially sat down to write this column centering on the Philadelphia Phillies’ recent trading frenzy, I was going to rip the Phillies for the basic, overall incompetence they’ve displayed on a nearly perennial basis since they last hoisted the World Series trophy way back in 1980.

However, the more I thought about general manager, Pat Gillick’s most recent transactions, the more I began to see Gillick’s reasoning behind moving the players that he did. I won’t lie, I am a little concerned that Gillick seems to be stockpiling players who have little, or no, major league experience, but I agree that the Phillies need to change the core of this team and alter the archaic approach they’ve been following all these years.

This past Friday, the Phillies traded 33-year-old starting third baseman, David Bell to the Milwaukee Brewers for a young single-A relief pitcher named Wilfrido Laureano.

Laureano, a 6-foot-6, 170-pound right-hander who is 22-years-old, was 3-2 with one save and a 3.96 earned run average in 29 relief appearances for West Virginia in the South Atlantic League. In 632/3 innings, Laureano struck out 62, walked 36 and allowed 54 hits and opponents were hitting .218 against him.

Bell, who was in the final year of a four-year, $17 million contract with the Phillies, would have been eligible for free agency at the end of this season, which makes this transaction a big bonus for the Phillies. Instead of keeping Bell and risking losing him at the end of the season and getting nothing in return, Gillick now has a young prospect who may or may not one day pan out to become a legitimate major leaguer. If Laureano doesn’t, then so what – it’s not like Bell was an all-star caliber player here. To be absolutely honest, Bell has been downright atrocious almost since the day he arrived in Philadelphia.

I also like the fact that Gillick is going to find out right now if Abraham Nunez, has the stuff it take to be a starting third baseman in the majors. Although he is hitting just .157 with one homer and five RBIs in 115 at-bats, Nunez will be the Phillies’ everyday third baseman – at least for the foreseeable future.

“We’re going to give him an opportunity to play,” general manager Pat Gillick said after announcing the trade following the Phils’ 4-1 loss to Florida. “Our feeling was that we weren’t going to re-sign David. Nunez really hasn’t had the opportunity to play on a regular basis. We’re going to continue to look to improve the position and the team as much as possible.”

Now, when Gillick followed this transaction up with the trade of Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle to the New York Yankees, I believe that he had his heart in the right place, but for him to give up Abreu, a legitimate all-star player, and Lidle, a very competent veteran, I believe he should have gotten a little more in return than left-hander Matt Smith and Class-A shortstop C.J. Henry, a former first-round draft pick in 2005.

Gillick did manage to acquire two more players, rookie league catcher Jesus Sanchez and right-hander Carlos Monasterios in the deal, but I think he should have acquired at least one player with some significant major league experience.

While Henry may be rated as the number four-ranked prospect in the entire Yankees’ farm system, it is far from a sure thing that he and any of the collection of other players Gillick acquired, will turn out to be productive major league players.
On the other hand, Gillick could have potentially hit a home run for the franchise.

Hypothetically, if two or three of the players Gillick acquired in this deal go on to form some of the core group of future Phillies teams, then Gillick and the Phillies may end up reaping the benefits of this deal for years after both, Abreu and Lidle have hung up their respective cleats.

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