PHILADELPHIA -- Baseball fans missed a lot of things in 2020 because of the pandemic.
Even though this year is different, there will still be Hot Stove rumors, trades and free-agent signings at the virtual Winter Meetings. The Phillies have had their share of significant moves consummated at the Meetings. Here are our top five (thanks to former Phillies vice president Larry Shenk, who assisted with this story):
1. Dec. 5, 1978 -- Pete Rose signing
The Phillies needed a jolt after losing the National League Championship Series three consecutive seasons from 1976-78. They figured Rose could help. Their pursuit of Rose began before the Winter Meetings, with the Phillies reminding Rose in Philadelphia that if he signed as a free agent in the American League he could never pass Stan Musial as the NL’s all-time hits leader. Rose wanted to make history, but he also wanted to be paid.
The Phillies offered a three-year, $2.1 million contract. It was the worst offer Rose received, but he remained interested.
“St. Louis wanted me to replace Lou Brock, and I didn't want to do that,” Rose said in the Phillies’ book "The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly." “Kansas City wanted me to change leagues, and I didn't want to do that. ... And Pittsburgh, I didn't think they had a good enough team. But I thought the team sitting on the powder keg was the Phillies. They were the closest team to get where I wanted to be at that stage of my life, and that was the World Series.”
But again, the money. Rose’s agent Reuven Katz told the Phillies if they found an extra $100,000 per season, he could convince Rose to sign. Executive vice president Bill Giles got WPHL-TV, which broadcast Phillies games, to kick in an extra $600,000 over the next four years to help pay Rose's salary. The station agreed. Rose signed a four-year, $3.24 million contract, which was announced at the Meetings in Orlando. It made Rose the highest-paid player in baseball. He then helped the Phillies win the 1980 World Series and the NL pennant in '83.
2. Dec. 9, 1959 -- Johnny Callison acquired from the White Sox for Gene Freese
The White Sox once called Callison the next Mickey Mantle, but they shipped him to Philadelphia during the Winter Meetings in St. Petersburg, Fla. Callison had only 189 plate appearances in two seasons to that point. Freese, meanwhile, hit 23 home runs in the best season of his 12-year career. But Phillies general manager John Quinn saw something in Callison, who became one of the most productive outfielders in franchise history. Callison finished second for the NL MVP Award in '64 and made three NL All-Star teams. Fun fact about Quinn: This was his first trade with the Phillies. His last? He acquired Steve Carlton from the Cardinals for Rick Wise in '72.
3. Dec. 13, 2004 -- Shane Victorino selected in the Rule 5 Draft
The Flyin’ Hawaiian played just 36 games for the Padres in 2003 after they selected him in the '02 Rule 5 Draft from the Dodgers. Victorino did not stick in San Diego. He returned to Los Angeles, and the Phillies took a shot more than a year later. Victorino did not make the team out of Spring Training in '05, but the Dodgers declined to take him back. Thank goodness for the Phillies. Victorino won Triple-A International League MVP honors in '05, then developed into a key piece of their '08 World Series championship team. Victorino had a successful 12-year career, which included two World Series titles, four Gold Glove Awards and two NL All-Star appearances.
4. Dec. 3, 1974 -- Tug McGraw acquired from Mets in six-player deal
Pat Gillick and Paul Owens are regarded as the two best general managers in Phillies history. Both knew how to acquire talent. Owens made a huge move to bolster the Phillies’ bullpen at the 1974 Winter Meetings in New Orleans. He acquired McGraw, Don Hahn and Dave Schneck from the Mets for Del Unser, John Stearns and Mac Scarce. McGraw took his screwball and “Ya Gotta Believe!” mantra a couple hours south to Philly, although he wasn’t happy about it at the time.
“I’m really disappointed,” he told The New York Times. “Everything I own has ‘New York Mets’ stamped on it. Maybe I tilted things too much.”
But McGraw stabilized the Phillies’ bullpen and recorded the final out in the 1980 World Series. He loved Philly, remaining there even after his career.
5. 2009 -- Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee trades
Sometimes deals are not finalized or announced at the Winter Meetings, but they are hatched or developed there. That was the case with Halladay and Lee at the 2009 Winter Meetings in Indianapolis. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. wanted to acquire Halladay from the Blue Jays, but he was told he could not get him unless he replenished the farm system by moving somebody else. Nobody else could restock the system like Lee. But the Phillies and Blue Jays could not agree on the prospects to send to Toronto. While Philadelphia talked to Toronto, it also discussed a potential contract extension with Lee. It was a high-wire act for a couple weeks. Eventually, the two teams agreed on a deal. The Phillies negotiated a contract extension with Halladay and then shipped Lee to Seattle.