On Sunday, the Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds completed a trade that sent Brandon Phillips to his hometown in exchange for a couple of pitching prospects. On the surface, this was hardly an earth-shattering move between two non-contender teams. However, a closer look recalls a controversial Expos blockbuster from the team’s final seasons in Montreal.
By acquiring Phillips, the Braves reunited him with Bartolo Colon, who signed with Atlanta as a free agent in November. Expos fans recall that Omar Minaya sent Phillips to Cleveland in a package deal for Colon during the 2002 season. Minaya was going all-in for the postseason. Some people called it the “Trade of the Decade”. Instead, it became an example of how trading the farm for a rental player can backfire on a team.
The Controversial Expos Blockbuster
The full deal was Phillips, Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore and Lee Stevens for Colon and Tim Drew. At the time, only Stevens was on the active big-league roster for the Expos. Colon was an ace pitcher in Cleveland. Phillips, Lee and Sizemore were top prospects but hadn’t played a big-league game with the Expos yet.
It was an exciting trade and Colon pitched well in Montreal. He went 10-4 with a 3.31 Earned-Run Average. However, the Expos didn’t make the playoffs and wound up trading Colon to the White Sox in the subsequent offseason in a payroll-cutting move.
While Colon was an established ace, there was little chance he would stay in Montreal for more than a few months. Phillips, Lee and Sizemore became All-Stars outside of Montreal. The Indians clearly won the deal.
The 2002 trade may have tilted heavily in Cleveland’s favour but it has taken numerous twists over the years.
Colon and Phillips are two of the last remaining connections to the Montreal Expos in Major League Baseball. Colon is technically the last former Expo remaining in the big leagues since Phillips never played with Montreal’s Major League team.
As it stands, Phillips is a fading player who will serve as middle-infield depth on a bottom-feeding team. Sizemore and Lee may never play again in the big leagues. As for Colon, he reinvented himself as a pitcher and remains a highly-productive fixture in the starting rotation.
Oh yeah, and baseball fans will forever love “Big Sexy” for this:
While the Braves may have been bitter rivals to Expos fans for years, they now have a special connection to Nos Amours. By reuniting two of the last remaining players connected to the Expos, the Braves have given nostalgic Montrealers a reason to follow their games this season.
Unless of course they don’t want to be reminded of that controversial Expos blockbuster that backfired in 2002.