Arrival of run-producing outfielder raises questions over Sheffield return

By The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA – The New York Yankees acquired All-Star right fielder Bobby Abreu and starting pitcher Cory Lidle from the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday for four minor league prospects.

Desperate for pitching and a productive bat in their depleted outfield, the Yankees took on Abreu’s hefty contract, hoping he can help them catch first-place Boston in the AL East.

“It’s a good team. They have some good players. It’s a team everyone wants to go to,” said Abreu, who already has an apartment in New York.

A .301 career hitter, Abreu fills a major void in the lineup. New York has been without injured outfielders Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui for most of the season.

“Things started heating up with Philadelphia in the last few days,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “The commitment left with Bobby is a pretty good commitment. This club has worked so hard and with so much fight. If I could, I wanted to give it a chance to win.”

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Abreu’s arrival could mean Sheffield won’t return to New York next year. The Yankees hold a $13 million option on his contract for 2007.

The Phillies get left-hander Matt Smith and Class-A shortstop C.J. Henry – a first-round draft pick in 2005. They also landed rookie league catcher Jesus Sanchez and right-hander Carlos Monasterios.

“You never think you got enough, but we’re happy with what we got,” general manager Pat Gillick said.

Abreu received $1.5 million from the Phillies to waive his no-trade clause and accept the deal. The Yankees owe him about $4.3 million of his $13.5 million salary this year, plus $15.5 million next season. He has a club option for $16 million in 2008 with a $2 million buyout. The Yankees did not exercise that option.

With trade speculation swirling, Abreu was pulled from Philadelphia’s starting lineup about 10 minutes before the first game of Sunday’s day-night doubleheader against Florida, but remained in the dugout. He walked around hugging teammates in the third inning and stayed on the bench, laughing, chatting and cheering.

When the trade was announced to the crowd before the ninth inning, Abreu got a standing ovation. He came out of the dugout, waved and blew kisses to fans. Lidle also came out and tipped his hat.

“That was special. I was almost crying,” Abreu said.

Abreu was batting .277 with eight homers and 65 RBIs. His 91 walks led the majors and his .427 on-base percentage was third in the National League. He has 198 home runs and 841 RBIs over 10 seasons.

Lidle provides depth in a rotation that has struggled due to injuries and inconsistency. The 34-year-old right-hander is 8-7 with a 4.74 ERA in 21 starts this season.

“I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t get a pitcher back,” Cashman said. “I had to get Lidle or the deal didn’t get done. Philadelphia got some players in this deal. I’m tired of giving players. I want to get players.”

Abreu has batted at least .300 six times, including a career-best .335 in 1999. He had two 30-homer seasons in 2001 and 2004, and stole more than 30 bases in each of those years.

Lidle has won his last four starts, pitching eight innings in each of the last two.

The trade reunites the 32-year-old Abreu with his former manager, Larry Bowa, who is the Yankees’ third-base coach.