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Abreu for Milledge?

Here's the hot trade rumor of the day, per Jayson Stark at ESPN (sorry, no link):

It's beginning to appear that the Phillies and Mets have the makings of a Richter Scale kind of deal -- one that would send Abreu to Flushing Meadow for an earth-rattling package topped by the Mets' marquee position-player prospect, Lastings Milledge. Two weeks ago, Milledge had a "Do Not Touch" sign pasted on his cap. But suddenly, a number of Mets people have been floating his name to friends in the business. And they've been sending signals that the one available player they would prefer to trade him for is Abreu. The Mets' original deadline shopping list started (and essentially ended) with starting pitching. But clubs that have spoken with the Mets say they've concluded there is no gettable starter with better stuff than the just-recalled Mike Pelfrey. So they have turned their attention to the one guy on their list they think could be a major difference-maker -- Abreu. The Phillies, on the other hand, are still pushing Pat Burrell before they even seriously shop Abreu. While that's only a matter of time, they would then have to decide whether they would risk shipping their No. 3 hitter to a team they would have to face 19 times a year. To do that, they'd initially indicated that the package would have to center around Pelfrey. But in the meantime, according to one baseball man, they've also done their homework on Milledge -- and haven't found anything negative except a mild case of immaturity.

I'll grant that I don't have the hatred for the Mets that many Phillies phans share--and I'd kind of like to see Abreu get on a national stage that would show the world how great he is. So that aspect of a potential deal doesn't bother me. But it's the prospect of acquiring Milledge that's really exciting here. Check out his pre-2005 minor league numbers: at age 20, he was getting on base at nearly a .400 clip and hitting for some power in the Eastern League, and his BB/K numbers improved significantly as he moved up the chain.

Then this year, with Triple-A Norfolk, he's raised his game another level: 36/49 BB/K, with 29 extra-base hits. Remember, he's 21; it's a fairly safe bet that some of those doubles will grow up into homers. And he parked three during his brief callup with the Mets. (A 1-for-17 skid in his last five games with the big club depressed his overall MLB numbers; don't sweat that.)

The maturity question is a legitimate one. Milledge raised some eyebrows (and pissed off Willie Randolph) when he high-fived fans in the outfield after hitting his first big-league home run, and he committed some defensive lapses. Perhaps more of a concern for some is that Milledge was involved in off-field shenanigans that probably depressed his draft status in 2003:

Allegations of sexual misconduct while in high school affected Milledge's nascent professional career. Prior to the 2003 amateur draft, he was expected to be among the top three selections. But as draft day approached, press reports from 2002 [1] resurfaced regarding Milledge's expulsion from Northside Christian High School after his junior year for "inappropriate beahvior". Milledge, who was 17 at the time of his explusion, admitted to having sexual relations with his 15-year-old girlfriend and agreed to enter a juvenille arbitration program to avoid prosecution. He subsequently transferred to Lakewood Ranch High School where he finished his education and amateur baseball career.

As a result of his misconduct issues, Milledge was passed over in the 2003 amateur draft until the Mets selected him as the twelfth overall pick in the first round. The Mets began contract negotiations with Milledge, but the talks were interrupted in early August, 2003, when the Mets learned of allegations of additional sexual misconduct against Milledge during his time at Northside. [2] The Mets completed a private investigation of the matter and, satisified with the results, signed Milledge to a contract with a $1.9 million bonus.

Given that the Phils obviously have issues with Brett Myers and, possibly, 2006 top pick Kyle Drabek, the organization is right to look into this. But Milledge's off-field problems have the whiff of ancient history, a kid's dumb mistake. I'm assuming they know more than I do, and if they're satisfied, I'm satisfied.

Mets GM Omar Minaya is a "go for it" kind of guy. He'll more readily trade prospects than many GMs, especially this year with the Yankees in a fight just to make the playoffs and the Mets looking like the best team in the NL. If the Phils have an opportunity to move Abreu, and most or all of his salary, for Milledge plus a young arm or two, they probably should take it.