Astros send Lidge, Bruntlett to Phillies
Speedy center fielder Bourn among three headed to Houston
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Houston traded closer Brad Lidge and utility infielder Eric Bruntlett to Philadelphia late Wednesday night in a five-player swap that landed outfielder Michael Bourn, right-handed reliever Geoff Geary and Minor League third baseman Michael Costanzo.The acquisition of Lidge enables the Phillies to move closer Brett Myers to the rotation, while the Astros obtained the center fielder and leadoff man they had been seeking in Bourn, a Houston native who attended the University of Houston. With the left-handed-hitting Bourn, who batted .277 with seven extra-base hits and 18 RBIs in 105 games, to play center field, the Astros will move Hunter Pence to right with Carlos Lee remaining in left. It also means the Astros, who had been eyeing free agents Torii Hunter and Aaron Rowand, are no longer in the market for another center fielder. Lidge's departure means the Astros must find a new closer, although Geary's arrival gives the team another proven middle-innings option. "[Bourn] can be a top-of-the-lineup catalyst for a club," general manager Ed Wade said. "I've seen the pure speed, not only the pure speed but the baserunning ability. He's an outstanding athlete who can hit at the top of the order. He can get on base; he has outstanding base-stealing ability. [Manager Cecil Cooper] will figure out who hits in the two hole, and we feel with Pence, [Lance] Berkman and Lee in the 3-4-5 spot this kid's going to be on base and have the ability to score a lot of runs." Lidge, 30, went 5-3 with a 3.36 ERA with 19 saves and 88 strikeouts in 66 games for the Astros. In six Major League seasons with Houston, Lidge is 23-20 with a 3.30 ERA with 123 saves, third most on the franchise's all-time list. But the right-hander struggled at times last season, blowing eight save opportunities and temporarily losing the closer's job. "If I had to put a finger on it, I'd say I'm not shocked, but I am surprised," Lidge said. "You prepare yourself for something like this, especially with a new GM. I knew it was a possibility. I was still thinking it wasn't going happen, but I wasn't shocked." Lidge said he loved his time in Houston but was looking forward to pitching for the Phillies. "I'm glad it happened in the offseason and not during the season," he said. "For my family, it's a lot easier. It's hard because I've been with the Astros my entire career. This is my first trade. It'll be interesting and hopefully it'll be good for my career. I was lucky to spend five years in Houston and establish myself as who I am today based on that." Wade said the Astros weren't seeking to move Lidge.
"Up until this deal came together, he was our closer. If we thought there were realistic and viable ways for us to improve our center-field situation in better fashion, then we would have done that and kept Brad as the closer," Wade said. "I saw his stuff at the end of the season, obviously he had some struggles over the course of the year, but from a pure-stuff standpoint and the fact that he's had a great track record in Houston, we didn't view it as anything more than we had to give up a very good player to get a very good player and hopefully three very good players."Philadelphia GM Pat Gillick was thrilled to land Lidge. "He's got outstanding stuff and has been a guy who has pitched very well since he first came up," Gillick said. "It's not secret we've been looking for pitching, and this certainly helps us there. Bruntlett's a guy who can play several positions, pinch-hit, run and help out in a lot of ways." Geary, 31, was 3-1 with a 4.41 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 57 relief appearances for the Phillies last season. He also made 14 appearances at Triple-A Ottawa, going 2-1 with a 2.52 ERA and 21 strikeouts. Geary is 13-4 with a 3.94 ERA and one save in 216 career games over five seasons with Philadelphia. He joined the Phillies in 1998 after being selected in the 15th round of the 1998 First-Year Player Draft. "To me, Geoff is a good sixth-seventh-inning pitcher," Wade said. "He's a sinker-slider guy, not a real big guy, but he can get up 91, 92 [miles per hour] consistently. At times he elevates the ball a little bit and gets hurt, but he'll go through stretches where's he's very effective and he's got great durability. He can go out there and give you multiple innings, he can go out there back-to-back days. Those are the guys who, from a durability standpoint, can be bullpen savers for you." The departure of Lidge and Bruntlett sheds two of the eight arbitration-eligible players the Astros had on the roster, and the savings might come in handy as Houston decides what to do about a closer. "We're not going to designate [Chad Qualls as closer]," Wade said. "Obviously we have to figure out how we're going to close games without Brad being here, but Qualls has done a quality job for us over the last couple of seasons, and the numbers he has put up in the role he has been in are outstanding. Whether or not he ends up being the answer on the back remains to be seen. "Fortunately with this being Nov. 7, we've got time now to go out there and see what other ways we have to address our needs." Costanzo, 24, hit .270 with 27 home runs and 86 RBIs in 137 games for the Double-A Reading Phillies in 2007. The 2007 Eastern League All-Star ranked second in home runs and third in runs scored (92). He was a second-round selection in the 2005 Draft from Coastal Carolina University. "The kid Costanzo's got great power and a very good arm," Wade said. "He struggled with strikeouts over the last couple of years in pro ball, but I think he's capable of continuing to make adjustments, and you make a mistake to him over the plate or the middle half of the plate, he can hurt you." Bruntlett, 29, completed his fifth season with the Astros in 2007 and hit .246 with 14 RBIs in 80 games. He recorded career-high totals in hits (34), at-bats (138) and walks (20) in 2007. During his five big league seasons, Bruntlett has hit .250 with nine home runs and 50 RBIs in 320 career games.
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.