The 2000 Philadelphia Phillies: Trading Curt Schilling

(Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images) /

Twenty years ago today, the Philadelphia Phillies dealt ace Curt Schilling for a return package that underwhelmed.

When you tell the tale of the 2000 Philadelphia Phillies like I’ve been doing for months now, you come across some seminal moments, ranging from Pat Burrell’s MLB debut to Terry Francona finally being fired. But one transaction they made during the season stands out as altering the landscape of the franchise: the trade of pitcher Curt Schilling to the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 26, 2000.

Clearly, Schilling’s fate was sealed in Philadelphia. The team had to trade him for the best possible package, something that was easier said than done because Schilling was limiting the places to which he’d agree to be traded. So even though I don’t have fond memories of GM Ed Wade, I can’t exactly put all of the blame on him for what transpired. Still…

To refresh your memory, the Phillies received pitchers Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa, and Vicente Padilla, along with first baseman Travis Lee in exchange for their ace. They were not going to get “equal value” from Arizona in any way, shape, or form, but the hope was that a couple of the players would turn into serviceable pieces for a rebuilding club like the Phillies. Let’s see how that worked out.

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Omar Daal had won 16 games for the D-Backs in 1999 but had struggled mightily in 2000, posting a 2-10 record with a 7.22 ERA at the time of the trade. He actually pitched halfway decently for the Phils once he came over, but that didn’t stop him from racking up the losses since the team was so bad. From August 13 through September 16, he lost seven straight STARTS, not just decisions, which is extremely difficult to do. What makes it even sadder is that the last five of them were actually quality starts (6+ innings pitched with 3 earned runs or less). That put Daal at 19 losses with two more starts left to go in the season.

There was big-time drama over whether or not he would become the majors’ first 20-game loser in two decades, but he didn’t get there. He actually could have pitched again on the season’s final day, but the Phillies didn’t want to take any chances at embarrassing the guy, so they sat him. He’d follow that up with a surprisingly good 2001, going 13-7 with a 4.46 ERA, after which he was traded to the Dodgers.

As for Nelson Figueroa, he seemed like the proverbial “throw-in” of the trade, having just three games of major league experience under his belt. He wouldn’t debut for the Phils until 2001, and he actually pitched quite well, going 4-5 with a 3.94 ERA in 19 games (13 starts) for the club. But the Phillies decided not to roster him at the start of the 2002 season, and he was lost to waivers. He would randomly resurface with the Phillies for a few months in 2010, which nobody remembers.

We’ll skip to Travis Lee, the only position player in the trade, next. Lee had a nice start to his MLB career in 1998, finishing third in NL Rookie of the Year voting (well behind Kerry Wood and Todd Helton). After a step back in 1999, he was plodding along again in 2000 at the time of the trade. Once he came to the Phils, he would stick through the 2002 season. He played a slick first base, but the bat never really materialized. In 366 games, he batted .258 with just 34 home runs and 174 RBI. The Phillies would slightly upgrade their offense at first base when they let him leave and signed Jim Thome.

Finally, the “crown jewel” of the Schilling trade, Vicente Padilla. Just 22 at the time of the trade (even though he looked 50 already), Padilla seemed like he had the raw talent to develop into a good starter. The Phillies played it slow with him, though, giving him 28 games out of the bullpen over the rest of 2000, followed by 23 games in 2001.

He did get some good time in the rotation at AAA that year, however, and so the decision was made to plug him in as a starter for the Phillies in 2002. He did not disappoint, delivering an all-star campaign, and it was at that All-Star Game that Padilla became an interesting footnote of baseball history. He was not expected to pitch in the game, being withheld just in case it went long. And that’s exactly what happened, with the contest going to extra innings.

Padilla pitched the 10th and 11th innings, and he even got an at bat. (Why did we ever let pitchers hit in All-Star Games?) At any rate, Padilla was unable to take the mound for a third inning, forcing the game to end in a tie since he was the last pitcher for the National League. You can hardly blame the guy, and it was definitely in the Phillies’ best interest to not have their pitcher risk injury in an exhibition, but it was still embarrassing.

Padilla was good again for the Phils in 2003, but he struggled for much of 2004 and 2005 before he was shipped out to Texas that offseason as the last remnant of the Curt Schilling trade. As for Schilling himself, he’d pitch seven more seasons, including THREE seasons of 20-plus wins for Arizona and Boston. He also collected three World Series rings and cemented himself as one of the most clutch pitchers in major league history. Despite all this, Schilling remains outside the Hall of Fame for now, which can only be attributed to his personality and all of the enemies he’s made because the guy was clearly an amazing player.

The Phillies and their fans were treated to nine years of Schilling, an era that ended 20 years ago today. He was one of the greatest pitchers in franchise history, which is why it’s such a shame that he couldn’t be part of a World Series winner here and that the organization could only get pennies on the dollar for him when they ultimately parted ways.

Next. Phil Gosselin is the hottest hitter on the planet. dark

The return for Schilling wasn’t as bad as you probably remember it being, it just seems worse because of all of the success that he had after he left. But Schilling wasn’t going to be in Philly for long, as he clearly wanted out, so the team just had to take what they could get. Maybe that’s why he’s not remembered all too fondly around here, despite what he did in a Philadelphia Phillies uniform.