Finding themselves back in the thick of the hotly contested NL East, the Phils pulled off a major move by trading Placido Polanco to the Detroit Tigers for veteran reliever Ugueth Urbina, pictured, and infielder Ramon Martinez.
The Phils finally acted out a trade that was strategized months ago, when Polanco unexpectedly accepted arbitration thus blocking the celebrated promotion of Chase Utley at second base.
Ever since, GM Ed Wade has been wiping the egg off his face and figuring out ways to move Polanco. Many thought he’d go at the deadline, or in a package with Ryan Howard.
But in moving him sooner than expected, Wade may have finally trumped division rivals by plucking a premium reliever out from under their noses.
According the AP, Tigers president Dave Dombrowski told Wade he was close to moving Urbina to another team in the NL East. It’s possible that team was either Atlanta, Florida or New York, where the relievers have struggled.
A deal with such high reward would have never happened if the Phils kept Polanco on the bench these first two months. Instead, Manuel showcased Polanco most games against left-handers, and got great results in return. He was a big part of their recent resurgence.
In Polly, the Tigers are getting a good, versatile starting second baseman. The Phillies will miss the options he creates. To replace him, the Phils get throw-in Ramon Martinez for more infield depth.
While the Phils will miss Polanco’s utility, they’re getting back more than they’re giving up. Urbina is the man the Phils should have traded for in 2003. Instead, the Marlins got him and won the World Series.
At 31-years-old, he’s had outstanding but overlooked career, earning 236 career saves and a 3.39 ERA. His new job will be setting up games for closer Billy Wagner.
Paging through scouting reports, one finds high praise for his transition from hard-thrower to crafty veteran. His 88-90 mph fastball now sets up his slider and changeup
“Urbina's mindset is his great strength,” according to Stats Inc. “He does not give in to hitters. It's why he yields so few hits and strikes out such a high ratio of hitters despite a mediocre fastball, and why he walks a lot of hitters.”
Urbina becomes the fourth Venezuelan on the Phils roster, joining Bobby Abreu, Tomas Perez and Endy Chavez.
How the trade will impact the Phils most
*In the bullpen, the key number is three - three steady arms they can depend on to anchor the pen. Their new back two – Urbina and Wagner – are playoff-caliber stoppers in back of the dependable Ryan Madson. In addition, left-hander Rheal Cormier can return to duty more suitable of a 38-year-old, becoming an excellent situational compliment to left-hander Aaron Fultz, who’s pitching above expectations.
The bottom line is, Urbina gives Manuel more options and security. Lately, it was becoming clear the bullpen structure wouldn’t last the summer, with Cormier, Madson and Wagner taxed for too many innings.
*The future is now (again) for Chase Utley at second base. Utley most prove himself against left-handers and show he can be an everyday second baseman. I believe he can. In addition, fans have one less thing to fuss about.
*Because the Phils got Urbina, the Braves, Marlins, Nats and Mets did not.
Beerleaguer final verdict
When I first heard about it, I grumbled a little because they didn’t get any prospects in return. Later I realized they probably wouldn’t get good enough prospects straight up for Poly, let alone as a throw-in.
Those are concerns for another day anyway. Today, they’re a better team than yesterday. In getting a quality arm in Urbina, surely one of the best available, Wade has sent a message that he’s in it to win it. This trade is designed for the stretch, something they meakly tried to create the previous two seasons. I’m right behind him on this one. This time he did it right.