In one swift trade, the Phillies helped themselves in three areas. The addition of Brad Lidge gives the Phillie a bona fide closer, who hasn't been as strong as he was earlier in his career, but bounced back late last season to pitch well. Phillies scouts who have followed Lidge, some of them for years, thought that he was throwing as well as he ever did toward the end of last season. Lidge's addition also means that Brett Myers, who had actually taken well to the role of closer, can move back to the starting rotation, filling another gap that the Phillies were concerned about for the off-season. A debate was raging over where Myers would be more valuable - the rotation or the bullpen - and the Phillies decided on ending the debate based on whether they could more easily acquire a starter or closer during the winter. A smaller part of the deal is Eric Bruntlett, who is a defensive specialist and will fill the shoes left by Abraham Nunez. Bruntlett can play pretty much anywhere the Phillies need him to play and plays solidly wherever you put him. Offensively, he's not much of an addition, but with the everyday offense that the Phillies have, they don't really need him to be a stud with the bat.
The trade was not without loss though. Michael Bourn provided help on the basepaths as a pinch-runner and as a defensive replacement for vulnerable Pat Burrell late in games. Many believe that Bourn can develop into a .280 type hitter and will be able to put himself near the top of the rankings in stolen bases as long as he does get on base enough to properly use his speed. Geoff Geary is likely the least of the losses and there have been hints of arm woes, which may have contributed to his struggles in 2007. Possibly the biggest loss was Mike Costanzo. The young third base prospect took some hits for his inability to better develop plate discipline and his defense is questionable, but he's got a big, powerful bat and was the Phillies answer to the question of 'who's on third' when fans talked about the future of the Phillies. Costanzo's exit leaves the Phillies with much lesser alternatives at a position where they have a gaping hole from the Major League level on down. There is talk of possibly moving Jason Donald or Adrian Cardenas to third, but there are also questions about how either of those players may be able to handle a move to third. This deal leaves the Phillies looking for a long-term answer for third base, which is currently manned by Wes Helms and Greg Dobbs.
So, is the move going to be good for the Phillies?
Overall, Lidge has been a dependable, but not necessarily dominating closer for the Astros. With Ryan Madson and Tom Gordon to setup Lidge, the back end of the Phillies bullpen is dependable and if needed, Gordon could always step in where needed to pick up Lidge. He's not necessarily a step up from Myers as the closer, but the Phillies were going to have a tough time finding a starting pitcher of Myers' ability to come into the rotation. Once Curt Schilling was off the market, the Phillies didn't have many other places to turn and Myers was the best option. The Phillies will still consider either dealing for another starter or finding one in free agency, but now, they don't have to find one the quality of Myers. Possibly a Carlos Silva will fit into the rotation and the Phillies will decide on how urgently to pursue more pitching once they have the results of an MRI that Adam Eaton had taken earlier this week. The Phillies could also consider filling the spot from within by using Carlos Carrasco or J.A. Happ at the back end of the rotation.
Bourn was not going to be given a starting job in the Phillies outfield. They viewed him as nothing much more than speed and defense and the most that they were going to use him would have been in a platoon. One of the reasons why the Phillies didn't consider him in terms of a starting player is because with Shane Victorino likely taking over in center for a departing Aaron Rowand, adding Bourn to the mix would give the Phillies two speedy outfielders with very little power between them in the starting outfield. With Victorino being more of a known quantity, the Phillies were going to be much quicker to deal Bourn than Victorino. As things stand now, Victorino will take over in center field with Jayson Werth getting most of the playing time in right field, while Greg Dobbs will head out to right for an occasional start. The Phillies are now pursuing an answer to Rowand by going after players like Coco Crisp who would take the lion's share of playing time.
Geary's spot in the bullpen is easily filled and the Phillies didn't give much consideration to including him in the deal.
The Phillies insist that they don't view an upgrade at third base as a priority, but Helms and Dobbs aren't the best combination to hold down the position. Don't plan on the Phillies going after Alex Rodriguez; it's simply not going to happen. Free agent Mike Lowell is an option, as is a deal for the White Sox Joe Crede. The Rockies appear to have taken Garrett Atkins off the block, so he won't be made available as an option for the Phillies. As for down the road, the Phillies will have to consider their options for filling the hole at third.
Overall, the deal works for the Phillies and will likely work well for the Astros as well. Originally, the Phillies were looking at Chad Qualls in the deal, but the talks moved smoothly to Lidge. Now, the Astros will move Qualls into the closer's job, while Lidge takes over in Philadelphia. Qualls and Lidge are fairly similar in style and ability, but Lidge is much more proven as a closer. The deal works well for both teams and the Phillies should be happy with the move, especially if they can find answers for third base.