December 12, 2019
After agreeing to terms with free agent starter Zach Wheeler on a five-year, $118 million deal and landing shortstop Didi Gregorius on a one-year deal, the Phillies appear to be nearly done with big-name free agency signing as most of the other players they've been linked to have either signed elsewhere or are close to doing so.
But what about a trade? As it turns out, the Phillies could fill out their infield with a blockbuster trade for Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant? Earlier this week, Chicago report Bruce Levine reported that the Phillies were one of the teams to inquire about the three-time All-Star and former World Series champion, and with Anthony Rendon landing with the Angels, the market for Bryant is likely to heat up.
According to Buster Olney, Bryant would make perfect sense for the Phillies. Here's what he said on a recent edition of Baseball Tonight:
“[The Cubs] are out in the marketplace right now with Kris Bryant,” Olney recently said on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight. “What I’ve heard from other teams is that they feel like the Cubs are going to have difficulty moving Bryant because he’s going to make so much money through arbitration – $18.5 million is the projected number for next season, and that’s going to grow potentially in 2021.”
Olney adds that because of his projected high arbitration-earning figure, there “may not be a big market of bidders for him.”
Yet, the Phillies stand out in particular.
“The Phillies, boy they would make a lot of sense,” Olney continued, “because they do have payroll flexibility. Kris Bryant is a Scott Boras client and we know the Phillies work well with that.” [via thatballsouttahere.com]
Bryant, who will turn 28 in January, posted a 3.6 WAR last season while slashing .282/.382/.521 with 31 HR, 35 2B, 77 RBI and 108 runs scored in 147 games while making his third All-Star Game. In this career, the three time All-Star who won Rookie of the Year in 2015 and NL MVP in 2016, has a 26.1 WAR over five seasons and has slashed .284/.385/.516 for his career.
In addition to what he would bring to the team, there's another reason the Phillies should be interested in Bryant: to keep him away from their division rivals, specifically the Braves and Nationals.
The Nats have already lost their third baseman, Rendon, who landed a seven-year, $245 million deal in Los Angeles, and the Braves are in danger of losing their own in Josh Donaldson, who is reportedly looking for a longer term deal that Atlanta seems unwilling to give him. And as the offseason continues, both of these teams appear to be turning their attention new third basemen.
The Nationals had previously been linked to Bryant, but according to Jesse Rogers of ESPN, the defending World Series champs could try to poach Donaldson from the Braves, which is the move that could really set off the market for Bryant. And the Braves are expected to show plenty of interest in the Cubs third baseman.
"The chatter around Bryant has been steady," one rival executive said this week at the winter meetings.
The Cubs will probably have to wait in line until one more free agent, Josh Donaldson, comes off the board. That'll leave Bryant as an attractive chip who will cost limited dollars, though top prospects would undoubtedly have to go back to Chicago. Things could move quickly. ...
Donaldson is next up and could be a great fit for Rizzo and the defending champions. They aren't afraid to sign the bigger, longer-term deals, though Donaldson's contract will pale in comparison to Rendon's. The Texas Rangers are scanning the market for a third baseman as well, and there are reports that the Philadelphia Phillies are doing the same. After Rendon's signing, league sources pointed to the obvious: Donaldson potentially inking a contract with Washington or Texas, unless the Atlanta Braves change tactics and are willing to sign their player long-term. [espn.com]
The way this report paints things going down would not be good for the Phillies, who are hoping to keep pace in the division with the Nats and Braves, but that would be even tougher with them landing the two top available third basemen not named Anthony Rendon. And it would fit with what both teams are trying to do — with the Nats finding a longer term replacement for Rendon, and the Braves finding a short-term solution at the hot corner just as they did with Donaldson a year ago.
"It's fair to say we'd like to add a middle-of-the order bat if we can," [Braves GM Alex] Anthopoulos said. "We are exploring options at third base."
Not surprisingly, sources say the Braves are focused on Donaldson before they turn to the trade market. They're desperate for someone to hit behind Freddie Freeman as Donaldson did last season. ...
There aren't many at these meetings who believe the Braves will outbid Texas or Washington for Donaldson's services, and that's when the Braves can turn to the Cubs. It could be a match made in baseball heaven. [espn.com]
Of course, if the Rangers, after losing out on Rendon, outbid the Nationals for Donaldson, then the Phillies could find themselves battling it out with two division rivals for the same player. And with the Braves having the better pool of prospects and the Nationals having just as much money to wave around as the Phillies — plus those shiny new World Series rings — its hard to see their advantage in the Rizzo sweepstakes, save for maybe the fact that Bryant has the same agent as and is from the same hometown (Las Vegas) as Bryce Harper.
Unfortunately, the Cubs probably couldn't care less about all that, and they're the ones making the final decision here.
As the free agent market continues to unfold — and the rumors continue to swirl — be sure to follow along with all the latest in our live MLB free agency tracker...
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