Abreu era ends in Philly

Abreu era ends in Philly

PHILADELPHIA -- Ten minutes before Sunday's scheduled doubleheader against the Marlins, the Phillies announced a lineup change -- and in doing so ended Bobby Abreu's 8 1/2-year run with the team.

The shift of Shane Victorino to right field and insertion of Aaron Rowand in center was the initial fallout of the whopper that sent Abreu and Cory Lidle to the Yankees for a quartet of prospects headed by former first-round draft pick C.J. Henry. The Yankees' No. 1 pick in 2005 comes with reliever Matt Smith, catcher Jesus Sanchez and right-handed pitcher Carlos Monasterios.

The Yankees will assume Abreu and Lidle's contracts. Abreu is due $15 million in 2007, and has a $16-million option for 2008, or a $2 million buyout, plus the rest of this season's $13.5 million salary, while Lidle is in the second season of a two-year, $6.3 million contract he signed in 2004. The Phillies also paid Abreu $1.5 million to buy out his no-trade option.

Between games of Sunday's doubleheader, general manager Pat Gillick stood at the podium at Citizens Bank Park and signaled a sea change in the organization's thinking.

"We haven't won with this group, so consequently I think you've got to change the mix," Gillick said. "When I came in here [in November], I said that we've got to squeeze five more wins out of the group," Gillick said. "We haven't looked like we're going to get to 93. At the moment, it doesn't look like we're going to get to where we were last year."

Last year's Phillies team won 88 games and came within one game of making the playoffs. In the past three years, the Phillies added players like Kevin Millwood, Jim Thome, Kenny Lofton and Billy Wagner in hopes of putting the team over the top. Those teams missed, too.

"The important thing is to change the mix," Gillick said, who has begun to put his stamp on the Phillies in his first year as general manager.

Abreu is the head of that underachieving monster, a statistical joy who couldn't lead the Phillies to the postseason. The 32-year-old batted .303 with the Phillies and averaged 157 games, 23 homers, 94 RBIs and 29 stolen bases over each of his eight full seasons. Save for a power drop, the team's regular No. 3 hitter was batting .277 with eight homers and 65 RBIs in 99 games, and had an on-base percentage of .427.

His name is peppered all over the list of Phillies career accomplishments. He hit the seventh-most home runs in team history and the third-most doubles, stole the third-most bases and drew the second-most walks.

Still, much of his tenure has been clouded by fan displeasure over his perceived lackadaisical play and lack of postseason stats. The Phillies acquired Abreu on Nov. 18, 1997, for Kevin Stocker, one of the more lopsided trades in team history. They rewarded him with a five-year, $64-million contract extension in Spring Training of 2002, and have often stated their intention of building a team around a nucleus that always included him.

That nucleus now appears to be All-Stars Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, and Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins and, down the line, Scott Mathieson and Michael Bourn. To keep the roster at 25, the Phils recalled Mathieson and Bourn, who made his Major League debut in the second game of Sunday's split twin bill.

Utley and Howard are due big paydays in the coming years, and some of the saved money may be allocated to sign either or both of those players long term.

"We have a pretty good nucleus that I don't think people should forget about," said Mike Arbuckle, the team's assistant general manager, scouting and player development. "The second baseman, first baseman, the shortstop. We have a couple of young outfielders [Michael Bourn, for one], and some young pitchers who are coming.

"I don't think we're talking about something that should be viewed as a long-term process. We need to remake the makeup of this club. I think it's more a remaking than a rebuilding. To me, it's a significant difference."

Bobby Abreu

That doesn't change what Gillick said, which might not be pleasing to the sensitive fan's ears.

With Abreu and David Bell out, and one or two deals likely before Monday's non-waiver trade deadline, Gillick said this doesn't necessarily mean the Phillies will be back to contender status by 2007.

"Realistically, I think it's a stretch to think that we're going to be there in '07," Gillick said. "I think probably right now, it's going to take longer than that. We've got some younger people in the pitching staff, especially, that we're going to plug in. With young people you have inconsistency, so it's going to take time to get their feet on the ground. I think it's probably going to be a little slower."

He softened that potential blow a bit when he said that free agency could change that equation in 2007, though the success of the team is going to ride on the development of players like Mathieson, Gavin Floyd, Hamels and Ryan Madson.

"With free agency, you can classify anything as long-term," Gillick said. "I would say it's going to take another year at least."

For now, the reality is that Abreu will be paid to hit home runs for the Yankees, who will host the Blue Jays on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Phillies hope all four of the acquired players can help the Phillies at some point.

While Abreu helps the Yankees outfield, Lidle assists the pitching staff. He's 8-7 with a 4.74 ERA in 21 starts in 2006, and has won his previous four outings.

Gillick said that another deal is close, and possibly a fourth, making for a very active weekend. The names of those rumored to be on the move include Rheal Cormier, Tom Gordon, David Dellucci and Jon Lieber.

Lieber is scheduled to start Monday afternoon's game.

"There's a big difference between wondering and worrying," Lieber said. "I'm just getting ready to pitch."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.