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Let’s make a (fake) deal: Phillies get Bryant, Kimbrel

“I found a way that we could get Bryant and Kimbrel and not have to give up very much!”

MLB: Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve previewed players that the Phillies can buy to help shore up their offense, starting pitching and relief pitching. Now, we get into silly season - making up trades!

Do the Phillies believe in Travis Jankowski? Maybe, but it’s doubtful.

Do the Phillies believe in Odubel Herrera? Maybe, but why should they?

There is a weakness in the Phillies’ lineup right now and it’s in centerfield. Whether it’s Jankowski or Herrera, there needs to be more production from the position. The offense has mainly missed out on much of the blame for the Phillies’ losing ways this year, but at some point, there needs to be a spotlight cast on areas they could have improved. With the team’s financial picture so cloudy at the beginning the season, it stood to reason that Herrera would get some run once the other options (Adam Haseley, Mickey Moniak, Scott Kingery) all failed to produce. Once Herrera slumped and got hurt, Jankowski has come in and performed, but there has to be a reasonable belief that he’s going to come back to Earth. So, upgrading in centerfield seems like a solid idea.

Then we have the bullpen.

Oh the bullpen.

It’s been an issue for three years running now and with the team in a position to make a move in the standings, there has to be an upgrade if the team is serious about making a push. When we say “upgrade”, we’re not talking about a middle reliever either. The team needs someone at the end of games that will not only lock down the final three outs, but also allow others to fall into a more natural role that suits their skillset.

If only there was a team that could give the Phillies an upgrade at both positions of need...

Hello, Chicago.

In acquiring Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel, the Phillies would be able to complete the proverbial “killing two birds with one stone” that so many team would love to do. While Bryant is the classic centerfielder one would tend to imagine, he is more than capable of faking it for the needed two months (or more) the Phillies would need him to. Kimbrel of course would fill the gaping void that enters our souls when the bullpen doors swing open with a lead, so you know that the team would be excited to acquire his services. The issue with both of these players is money. They would be pushing the Phillies way, way over the luxury tax threshold, something John Middleton has been loathe to do in the past, but seems to be warming up to now that a playoff appearance would guarantee two home games and the sweet playoff revenue that comes with it. So now, we have to find the right players in order to get Chicago on the dance card.

Using Baseball Trade Values (BTV), we can get a rough estimate of what it might take in order to pry these two young lads loose from general manager Jed Hoyer’s hands. Of course using that site is an exercise in futility sometimes as there are so many other moving parts (Is one of the teams looking to simply slash payroll? Do they want younger prospects? etc.), but for now, it’ll have to suffice. We’ll take a gander at Chicago’s prospect list to see what the theoretical needs are and see that according to Fangraphs, they’re a little light on the pitching side of things. We also know that Chicago is keen to slash payroll a bit and getting the contracts of Bryant and Kimbrel off the books might be palatable to ownership. Alright, now we’re getting somewhere. Working with that, let’s put this deal in and see what happens.

Phillies get: Kris Bryant, Craig Kimbrel
Cubs get: Francisco Morales, Erik Miller, Adonis Medina, Logan O’Hoppe

The Phillies get their needs filled in one fell swoop. The Cubs get some needed pitching depth, Morales and Miller providing upside of #2-3 starters that are close enough to the majors that Chicago wouldn’t be waiting on them long. Medina can help now in the bullpen and give their rotation depth in 2022. O’Hoppe gives them some catching depth, even if one of their top prospects is a catcher. What does BTV think about it?

Interesting, they’re considering this an overpay. Now, this is with no money being taken into consideration; simply a straight player for prospects trade. Rather than speculate on whether Chicago should take this, I decided to discuss with Bleed Cubbie Blue’s Tim Huwe, their own prospect guy to get his take on it.

The Cubs, off of the Darvish and Pederson trades, sought players with upside that are (largely) ineligible for the Rule 5 Draft this December. Trading both Kimbrel and Bryant this July to the same team would be like sending three of your five kids to the circus. It could be a good idea, but likely would be bleach-drinkingly foolish. Miller is a 45 and Morales (45+) are both nice gets, but Joc Pederson brought a 40plus in Bryce Ball, I’d think they’d bring a larger return, elsewhere. Adonis Medina is exactly the type they’d look for a Ryan Tepera sort of return. If no [Mick] Abel, I think they’d get a better return elsewhere. Possibly, possibly, possibly if Miller, Stott, and Morales. But if the Mets toss in JT Ginn plus, that almost certainly wins.

Wondering if money gets involved, either with Chicago paying some down or with the Phillies absorbing all of the contract money left with Kimbrel and Bryant, Huwe said this:

Whichever team offers the best package wins. That’s my hunch. And every evaluator has their own method for deciding. Everyone wants Bryant and Kimbrel. Only one will make the biggest offer. Not seeing money as mattering much. Talent will. This is how Hoyer jumpstarts the pipeline before a work stoppage.

Hmm, an interesting take on the situation. Based on all the reporting going on about Kimbrel, it would seem that the Cubs are in fact placing a high price tag on acquiring his services, justifiably so since he’s the best available reliever on the trade market. However, we don’t know how many teams are going to be willing to take on the rest of his deal plus his option for 2022, possibly limiting his market overall.

This trade also underscores the difficulty the Phillies will have if they are forced to go the simple “players for prospects” route. On the outside, their farm system isn’t nearly as highly regarded as others. While Morales might be a solid #2 or 3 prospect in the Phillies’ system, in others, he might be toward the lower end of the top ten. If he’s headlining a package, that package might not be good enough to get the impact players the team needs to make a difference. If more is needed in order to swing a trade for players like Bryant and/or Kimbrel, it might not be palatable enough for the Phillies to swallow hard and take the deal. They cannot bankrupt the system just yet.

It’s going to be hard to do trades for the Phillies this deadline season. We’ll just have to wait and see how it all turns out.