Last week on Phillies Five, we took a look at the best moments thus far in the career of Chase Utley, with it at the time being just 26 days until the day we all have been waiting for, Opening Day. The first game of the season on March 31st is now seven days closer for the Phils. They plan to take on Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers in a Monday afternoon, matinee matchup.
Why not get in the mindset for Opening Day? In the theme of Phillies-Rangers, we will look at some of the careers of five once Rangers, and now current Phillies on the roster.
5. Andrés Blanco
Utlity infielder Andrés Blanco was a member of the Texas Rangers from 2010 to 2011. Prior, he was a Kansas City Royal from 2004 to 2006, and a Chicago Cub in 2009. While in Texas in 104 games and 242 at-bats, Blanco hit (.260) with two home runs and 16 RBIs.
Blanco signed to a minor-league deal with invite to Spring Training with the Washington Nationals on December 16, 2011. Having not made the team, Blanco was a free agent once again for the 2010 offseason. On March 31, 2012, the Phillies signed Blanco to a minor league contract. He played in 120 games for the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs in 2012, hitting ten home runs and 40 runs batted in on a (.235) batting average.
Blanco is a non-roster invitee again this Spring Training, as he resigned with the club on November 21, 2013.
With the Phillies already having Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis, there really is no chance Blanco ever sees light as a major-leaguer in Philadelphia.
4. John Mayberry Jr.
John Mayberry Jr. was selected 19th overall by the Texas Rangers in the 2005 Major League Baseball Draft*.
*The Phillies were supposed to have the 17th pick in that draft, however by them signing starting pitcher Jon Lieber, a compensation pick was handed off to the Yankees where they drafted outfielder C.J. Henry. Ironically, Henry was a part of the Bobby Abreu-Cory Lidle trade to the Yankees which sent Henry back to the team that had his original draft spot. The Phillies released him a season thereafter, and Henry went back to the Yankees to eventually a year later quitting baseball all-together to play basketball.
On November 20, 2008, new Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. swapped prospects with the Rangers in what he dubbed the move a "speed-for-power swap". The Phillies sent outfielder Greg Golson in exchange for Mayberry Jr.
For Golson, his career has not materialized quite yet. He made his debut in September of 2008 for the Phillies, going 0-6 with two runs and a stolen base. He did not dress for the postseason, but did travel with the club through that amazing journey against the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays.
Once traded to the Rangers, he was then sent to the Yankees in 2010. Golson was included on the Yankees' 2010 postseason roster after making an impressive throw in late-September to third base to tag-out speedy outfielder Carl Crawford. Released in 2011, Golson's career hasn't peaked back since. He has signed with the Royals, White Sox, Rockies, Braves, and just recently with the Milwaukee Brewers for the 2014 season on a minor-league deal.
As for Mayberry Jr., his career has had much better success. He made his major-league debut on May 23, 2009 for the Phillies, where he hit a three-run home run off of Andy Pettitte in the just built, new Yankee Stadium.
In 2010, Mayberry played only 11 games with the Phillies, the rest in the minors. It wasn't until 2011 where he "graduated" from the minor-leagues, as he made the Opening Day roster for the club. That season in 104 games, he hit 15 home runs for a (.273) batting average and a .854 OPS. In 2012 through 2013, Mayberry never really reached the level fans once hoped he would get, hitting for power that was much needed after the departure of Jayson Werth.
On January 17, 2014, the Phillies re-signed Mayberry, 30, to a one year contract, avoiding arbitration, worth $1.5 million. Mayberry has no significant role in store for him with the outfield already locked, however he can prove to be a great bench asset if he finds a way to be consistent, something he has always lacked capability of doing.
3. Mike Adams
Mike Adams was a member of the Texas Rangers from 2011 to 2012, and he surely gained valuable postseason experience as the Rangers made it to the World Series in both those seasons.
Prior to being a Ranger, he gained prominence as a San Diego Padre, where there in four seasons, 209 games, he had a 1.66 ERA in 217.0 innings pitched.
At the time when he signed-on with the Phillies on December 15, 2012 for a two-year, $12 million contract, it appeared that signing was one of the best Amaro had ever completed in looking to upgrade their struggling bullpen.
Unfortunately, that was not the case as Adams appeared in just 28 games for the Phillies in 2013, going 1-4 with a 3.96 ERA and a 2.09 strikeout-to-walk ratio, the lowest ratio in his career since 2006 with the Milwaukee Brewers.
He was injured for most of the season with shoulder problems, and is still recovering as of today in Spring Training. He did, however, throw a bullpen session a couple weeks ago for the first time since his July 2013 shoulder surgery. He expects to return to the club in mid-April.
2. Marlon Byrd
Marlon Byrd made his MLB debut nearly 12 years ago, on September 8, 2002, for the Phillies. In four seasons for the Phils, 256 games and 889 at-bats, he hit just 13 home runs and 79 runs batted in for a (.271) batting average.
After a rather disappointing season in 2004, Byrd was traded to the Washington Nationals for outfielder Endy Chávez. That trade backfired for the Phillies, as Chavez hit just (.215) in 91 games and 107 at-bats for the Phillies in 2005.
Ultimately, one leaving the Phillies Byrd went from team to team, year after year. He remained in Washington until 2006, where he then signed on to the Texas Rangers through 2009. From 2010 to 2012, Byrd was a member of the Chicago Cubs, and in late-April of 2012 he was traded to the Boston Red Sox for pitcher Michael Bowden and a PTBNL.
While a Red Sox, Byrd experienced argulably the worst moment of his career. On June 25, 2012, he was suspended 50 games for testing positive for performance enchancing drugs. The rest of the reason was essentially lost for the outfielder.
A free-agent that offseason, Byrd had trouble finding a team that believed in him or simply did not mind having a player who was caught before using PED's. With just two weeks before Spring Training, Byrd signed-on with the New York Mets for a miniscule $700,000. Boy, did that signing pay off for the Mets, as Byrd hit .285 with 21 home runs in 117 games with New York.
With the Mets out of the playoff race, as always, in late August, they decided to trade one of their best players in the 2013 in Byrd, along with catcher John Buck to the Pittsburgh Pirates for infielding prospect Dilson Herrera and a PTBNL. Byrd led the Pirates to their first postseason appearance in forever, and he went 2-4 with a home run and two runs batted in in the 2013 National League Wild Card Game.
Byrd moved on with the Pirates, and signed back here in Philadelphia on November 12, 2013. His contract is worth two-years and $16 million, and it includes an $8 million club option for 2016 that vests based on plate appearances.
The Phillies went with Byrd early-on, not even considering signing Nelson Cruz or another power right-handed bat. Can Byrd repeat the magical season he had in 2013? It is possible, but definitely not a 100% given. He needs to click, however, if the Phillies want to remain in the race for as long as possible in 2014.
1. Cliff Lee
Like Byrd, Cliff Lee was a Phillie prior to becoming a Ranger, before eventually returning back to the city of Brotherly Love later on.
Lee was first acquried in the Summer of 2009 as the Phillies looked to bolster their starting rotation for a late-year push back to the Fall Classic. He nearly single-handely carried the team, pitching-wise, all the way through the postseason, especially during the 2009 World Series against the New York Yankees, where he went 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA in two starts. One of those starts was a complete game in Game 1, and who could forget his iconic glove flip on a pop up to the mound, with him almost "shoving it" to the fans of the Bronx.
Shockingly, Ruben Amaro Jr. traded Lee, just a month or so after the Series' disappointing conclusion. He was sent cross-country to the Seattle Mariners in-light of the Phillies signing Roy Halladay, a pitcher Amaro long coveted and nearly traded Domonic Brown for prior. Lee went 8–3 with a 2.34 ERA in the first few months as a Mariner before being traded again, this time to the Texas Rangers. Cliff struggled the rest of the regular season in the Lone Star state, posting a 4-6 win-loss record and a 3.98 ERA. He was a contributing factor, however, in leading the Rangers to their first American League pennant in franchise history. He was the polar-opposite in the 2010 World Series against the San Francisco Giants in comparison to 2009 against the Yankees, going 0-2 in two starts with a 6.94 ERA.
Just that offseason, the Philadelphia Phillies shocked the world by bringing back the left-hander after a one-year hiatus. On December 15, 2010, Lee signed a 5-year, $120-million deal with a vesting option for a sixth year.
With Cole Hamels' health status in question for the beginning of this upcoming season, Lee's early success arguably can be the make-or-break factor for the Phillies. Yet again, if the bats are silent, it does not matter who is out there on the mound.
Matt Rappa is a contributor to Philliedelphia. Follow him on Twitter @mattrappa