Phillies Get Billy Wagner For Duckworth, Prospects

The Phillies knew that finding a reliable closer was their top priority for the offseason. Rather than wait for one of the closers that are on the free agent market, the Phillies fired the first shot of the offseason trade market by picking up closer Billy Wagner from the Houston Astros for pitcher Brandon Duckworth and two pitching prospects.

Billy Wagner is a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Phillies announced the move at an afternoon press conference in Philadelphia. The deal brings the 32 year old Wagner to the Phillies in exchange for pitcher Brandon Duckworth and minor league pitchers Taylor Buchholz and Ezequiel Astacio.

Wagner set a career high with 44 saves in 47 opportunities for the Astros in 2003. Wagner, who was originally drafted by the Astros with the 12th overall pick in the 1993 Draft, will be entering his 10th major league season in 2004. Wagner has a career record of 26-29, 2.55 with 225 saves.

The Phillies made no secret of the fact that finding a reliable closer was their top priority for the offseason. The original theory was that they would pursue a free agent such as Tom Gordon. In recent days, the Phillies turned their attention to the trade market, rather than waiting for free agents. Wagner and Anaheim's Troy Percival were the main trade targets for the Phillies.

The Astros are getting Brandon Duckworth, who was somewhat of a disappointment with the Phillies. Duckworth went 4-7, 4.94 with the Phillies in 2003 and lost his spot in the starting rotation. Over three major league seasons, Duckworth went 15-18, 4.87 with the Phillies.

The Phillies also gave up Taylor Buchholz and Ezequiel Astacio in the deal. Buchholz was the Phillies sixth round draft pick in the 2000 Draft and grew up in nearby Lower Merion, Pennsylvania. Buchholz spent the entire season at AA Reading this past summer and went 9-11, 3.55 in 24 starts. He walked 33 and struck out 114 in 144 innings with Reading.

Astacio, who turns 24 on November 4th, went 15-5, 3.29 at Clearwater in 2003. He started 22 games, pitching 147.2 innings with just 29 walks. Astacio struck out 83 hitters at Clearwater.

The Phillies will now turn their attention to upgrading the starting rotation that may be without ace Kevin Millwood, who filed for free agency.

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