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November 11, 2019

MLB trade rumors: Could Phillies vie for Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor or Kris Bryant?

An interesting report from MLB insider Jon Morosi (whom Phillies fans know well from the Bryce Harper/Manny Machado saga last winter) has opened up some very intriguing possibilities for Philadelphia as it weighs its offseason options.

Free agency began last week — also known as the slow Scott Boras-led crawl toward inevitable March signings — but the Phillies have shown they are not scared to use another means to improve their team of late: the trade.

And according to Morosi, there could be a blockbuster on the horizon:

Last fall, the Phils traded for J.T. Realmuto and for Jean Segura, two mainstays in the lineup and two of the better acquisitions in all of baseball in the last few years. It isn't improbable that Morosi — and the "multiple MLB team execs" — may be referring to the Phillies as one of the teams interested in the above players. 

Lets take a look at them briefly:

Mookie Betts, OF, Red Sox

Betts is under contract for one more season, so it makes sense to trade him only if the team doesn't think it can ink him to a longterm deal. It also stands to reason that the team would surmise the return on Betts — a career .301 hitter and the first player in history to win MVP, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, a batting title, and World Series in the same season last year — would be better now than next summer at the trade deadline.

A google search of Betts will find articles from all over New England saying both that Betts is overrated and that the team needs to back a brinks truck up to his front door and make him a Red Sox for life. The Phillies have less of a need at outfield than other positions. Harper and McCutchen are both reliable veterans slated to start in 2020. Adam Haseley showed enough last season to earn a chance to be the everyday center fielder. Depth at outfield is more important for the Phils this season than landing another superstar there — though for a player like Betts if the price is right, you never know. 

It's probably the least likely of the three, but a move for Betts would give the Phillies an outfield to be reckoned with to be sure.

Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians

Lindor is an interesting case, as the Indians had a successful 93-win season but missed the postseason. It sounds as though Cleveland is very motivated to trade the 25-year old. Here's more from ESPN's Buster Olney:

It's not a matter of if the Indians trade Lindor, because logic dictates that yes, they will deal him inevitably. The only real question is when the Indians should do this, with four possible windows. Lindor now has four-plus years of big league service time, and will become eligible for free agency in fall 2021. Theoretically, he could work out a long-term deal with Cleveland before then, but there is no expectation of that occurring. Lindor turns 26 next week, his place secure among the preeminent players in the sport -- a two-time Gold Glove shortstop who hits with power, runs at high speed and generates runs. He’s scored 428 runs over the past four seasons. His intangibles will only add value: Lindor is highly regarded as a person and teammate. [ESPN]

Lindor is an all-around player and a shortstop — a position the Phillies could address aggressively. According to Olney, big market teams like the Phillies, Yankees, Dodgers and Cubs are expected to be interested in Lindor, no doubt making the price astronomically high (it would be hard to imagine getting Lindor without giving up Alec Bohm or Spencer Howard). 

The Phils can have an open infield spot pretty easily, as they could theoretically slide Lindor in at SS, moving Segura to second base and Scott Kingery to third — while trading away Cesar Hernandez for some farm system help. 

Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs

Bryant actually makes the most sense for Philly. They desperately want to move on from Maikel Franco at the hot corner and Bryant is one of the better power hitting third basemen in the league. The Phils need more power hitting at Citizens Bank Park desperately. Bryant is 27 and still under team control through 2021, and has reportedly turned down a $200 million extension. The Cubs may be heading for a rebuild in the stacked NL Central and Bryant may be their best chance at landing a blue chip prospect.

Here's what Al Yellon from Cubs blog BleedCubbieBlue had to say about Bryant last month:

But there are two reasons to trade Kris Bryant. One is that the Cubs are very unlikely to sign him to a long-term deal when he reaches free agency after 2021. Why not trade him now, when at age 27 he’s likely at his peak? That would also maximize the return. Second, it’s been noted in many places that the core of this ballclub has exhibited some complacency and doesn’t seem to have the sense of urgency to win that management would like to see. Shaking it up by trading a major player like Bryant might awaken that. [SB Nation]

The top level options available via trade are younger than those available via free agency, but they could be just as expensive. Trading for one of the above three players would not only cost in prospects, the Phillies would presumably be willing to break the bank to sign them to a longterm extension, otherwise what's the point?

It's also worth noting that the Phillies biggest issues are not finding explosive offensive players (though adding one wouldn't hurt) but finding reliable pitching.

Still, expect the rumor mill to fully churn over the next few months with the Phillies no doubt connected to one or all three of the players mentioned in Morosi's tweet.

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