Abreu starred with the Phillies after two organizations deemed him expendable. Left unprotected in the 1997 expansion draft when Houston decided to keep fellow Venezuelan Richard Hidalgo, Abreu was selected by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays but was traded to Philadelphia for shortstop Kevin Stocker a few hours later.
The deal proved to be the worst in the Rays’ brief history. Stocker was released after just over two seasons with the club, while Abreu firmly established himself as one of the most promising young hitters in the game.
Abreu topped the Phils with .312 average in 1998 and made a brief run at the batting title in 1999. His .335 average that season ranked third in the National League, and was the highest posted by a Phillie since Tony Gonzalez hit .339 in 1967. After his breakout season, Abreu — who had turned down a four-year, $8.5 million offer the previous year –cashed in with a three-year deal worth at least $14.25 million.