MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The Phillies acquired Mike Sweeney from the Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later or cash considerations. But that wasn't the biggest news.
Minutes after Ruben Amaro Jr. announced the trade, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Sweeney will become the regular first baseman when he arrives here Thursday. Why is that surprising? Consider a few factors:
-- Sweeney hasn't played a major-league game since June 25. He was on the disabled list for Seattle with back spasms. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said the team physicians reviewed Sweeney's medical records and deemed he was healthy and ready to play immediately.
-- Sweeney has started 25 games at first base in the last five seasons. Twenty-five. The last time he was a full-time starter at first base? That was 2002.
When Shane Victorino returns from the disabled list, who sits down?
Granted, this is a low-risk move. These sorts of trades have paid off for the Phillies before. Remember Jeff Conine, Jose Hernandez and Jamie Moyer in 2006? Scott Eyre, Matt Stairs and Tadahito Iguchi in 2008? All of those moves were made following the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Sweeney was hitting .263 in 30 games with Seattle. He had a .802 OPS, which is respectable, albeit in a small sample size. He has a .298 career batting average, although most of that was boosted by his prime years in Kansas City.
Against righthanded pitching, Sweeney is hitting .291 with an .882 OPS in 62 plate appearances. Ross Gload, who would have received the majority of playing time with Ryan Howard on the shelf, is batting .266 with a .765 OPS in 84 plate appearances.
Really, the Phillies are hoping Sweeney can catch fire. They gave up nothing to acquire him. Sweeney is a player on his last legs. He has spent 16 seasons in the major leagues and has never played in the playoffs. That's motivation enough, the Phillies hope.