As Phillies Nation celebrates the career of Jimmy Rollins in November, it appears that the franchise could have eyes on acquiring one of today’s elite shortstops.
Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com says that the Phillies are among a slew of teams interested in potentially trading for Cleveland Indians’ shortstop Francisco Lindor, a group that also includes that New York Yankees, New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays and St. Louis Cardinals.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today has previously reported that the Indians expect to trade the four-time All-Star shortstop before opening day. Lindor is eligible to test free agency after the 2021 season, and could be part of a historic group of shortstops to reach the open market, one that may also include Corey Seager, Javier Baez, Carlos Correa and Trevor Story.
It’s not especially surprising to hear that the Phillies have interest in Lindor, he’s graded out as most valuable offensive shortstop in baseball since the start of the 2016 season. Who wouldn’t get giddy at the idea of adding Lindor, who will turn 27 this week, into a lineup with Bryce Harper and Alec Bohm?
The problem is that even without a ton of leverage, the Indians still may not be especially excited at what the Phillies have to offer in a trade.
Presumably, Bohm isn’t being traded, and that’s probably also the case for Spencer Howard. 2019 first-round pick Bryson Stott, a shortstop, could be of interest, but he’s never played above the New York-Penn League. 2020 first-round pick Mick Abel is an exciting arm, but he’s straight out of high school, and the Phillies probably don’t want to trade him.
On the major league roster, Rhys Hoskins is rehabbing from elbow surgery, and though he’s a valuable offensive piece, he’s probably best-geared to be a DH. Scott Kingery remains and intriguing player, but in two of his three major league seasons, he’s really struggled. Adam Haseley, Mickey Moniak and Adonis Medina could maybe be part of a deal, but probably not at the forefront of one. The Phillies famously didn’t want to trade Zach Eflin for Manny Machado in the summer of 2018, so who knows if they would be willing to part with him now that he’s had something of a breakout year.
What really hangs over this all is that the Phillies don’t have a general manager. Matt Klentak stepped down in early October, and there’s no indication anyone has been interviewed for the position since. Ned Rice is the interim general manager, but who knows what his long-term future in the organization is. President Andy MacPhail plans to step aside after the 2021 season, if not sooner. How could you make this type of trade, and probably leave the next front office in a position where they have to scrap and claw to re-sign Lindor after the 2021 season?
The Phillies find themselves in a similar situation currently with J.T. Realmuto, who after two All-Star caliber seasons, is a free agent. Managing partner John Middleton admitted that he didn’t want to make the Realmuto trade with the Miami Marlins in February of 2019 without signing the catcher to a long-term deal. Ultimately, he leaned on his front office, who believed that they could get a deal done. But here we are, with Realmuto a free agent, and the division-rival New York Mets and Washington Nationals seen as a potential suitors for his services. While it may take less to acquire Lindor than it did Realmuto – simply because Lindor is so close to free agency – would Middleton sign off on such a trade if it didn’t include a negotiating window with Lindor, which it likely wouldn’t?
That said, the last thing the Phillies want is for Lindor, a player on a Hall of Fame trajectory, to end up with the Mets for the next decade. New owner Steve Cohen was officially introduced Tuesday, and said he’ll be disappointed if the team doesn’t win a World Series in the next three-to-five seasons. Certainly, acquiring Lindor would help them in that goal, and potentially hurt the Phillies’ chances of winning the National League East anytime soon.
The flip side of that, though, is if the Mets make a major splash and trade for Lindor, perhaps they would be more inclined to consider a cheaper option at catcher, like James McCann. The Mets bowing out – or not being as serious – in the pursuit of Realmuto seemingly would help the Phillies’ chances of re-signing the catcher. Truth be told, though, you’d almost certainly rather have Lindor than Realmuto.
Didi Gregorius, the Phillies’ starting shortstop in 2020, is a free agent, and because the team didn’t extend a qualifying offer to him, they’ll get nothing if he leaves in free agency. It’s unclear at this juncture how seriously they plan to pursue a reunion with the 30-year-old. Internally, either Kingery or Jean Segura would need to take over at shortstop in 2021 if the Phillies don’t re-sign Gregorius or make an external addition.
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