On Wednesday, Kris Bryant lost his grievance against the Chicago Cubs pertaining to their manipulation of his service time during the 2015 season. Bryant, who finished a day shy of qualifying for free agency this coming winter, will instead hit the open market after 2021. Between the Cubs' willingness to trade from their core, and the potential for bad blood between the parties, it's fair to wonder if Bryant's days in Chicago remain in limited supply.
Should the Cubs shop Bryant, one team certain to show interest is the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies have the financial means and the competitive incentive to add another star-level player, and Bryant has the added benefit (however trivial it may be) of being friends with Bryce Harper. The pertinent question is, do the Phillies have the prospects to pull off another blockbuster?
Let's take a look at the Phillies' trade candidates, as broken down into the following categories:
top prospects (those who could realistically anchor a trade)
additional prospects of note (those who would fill out a package)
cost-controlled players (anyone with three years or less of big-league service time)
team-controlled players (anyone with more than three years but less than six years of service time)
everyone else who might attract interest in negotiations
Howard, 23, has at least middle-of-the-rotation potential thanks to his broad arsenal and his feel for throwing strikes. He reached Double-A late last season and held opponents to a .180/.254/.288 slash line over six appearances, all the while recording more than four strikeouts per walk. Injuries are always a concern with pitchers, but more so with Howard. Even including his six starts in the Arizona Fall League, he still finished with fewer than 100 innings in 2019. A healthy Howard should open the season in Triple-A and reach the majors before summer turns to fall.
Executives around the league believe the Phillies would be willing to include Bohm in a Bryant trade. The 23-year-old has more volatility than you'd expect from the No. 3 pick in a recent draft who has already enjoyed success at the Double-A level. Bohm is a natural third baseman, yet he has substandard range and could end up across the diamond at first base, where the Phillies have been cross-training him. Right-handed first basemen have to really hit in order to be deemed long-term assets. Bohm has that kind of offensive upside, and it's not out of the question that he ends up hitting for average and power alike. (He did a better job last season of leveraging his strength.) Still, there's a chance he ends up as a second-division first baseman, so it would make sense if the Phillies are willing to move him for greater certainty.
Additional prospects of note
The rest of our Phillies top prospect list included shortstop Bryson Stott and right-handed pitchers Francisco Morales and Adonis Medina. (You can read more detailed reports on each by clicking here.) Stott was the Phillies' first-round pick in June. He's a tall shortstop with a long swing whose range of outcomes stretches from two-way contributor to strikeout-prone second or third baseman. Morales had one of the highest strikeout rates in A-ball thanks to his fastball-slider combination. He needs to sure up the nuance aspects of his game in order to stick in a rotation. Medina's impressive raw stuff has yet to result in impressive results.
The three other main names worth knowing from this tier: shortstop Luis Garcia, outfielder Mickey Moniak, and left-hander Damon Jones. Garcia struggled in the South Atlantic League, but he has the potential for four average or better tools. Moniak, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft, hasn't lived up to his draft status. His believers still think he could become a starting outfielder. Jones lacks Moniak's pedigree, as he was originally an 18th-round pick. His fastball-slider pairing should allow him to become a useful reliever.
There's no reason to think the Phillies would move Scott Kingery, and they'd probably prefer to hold onto Adam Haseley (currently their starting center fielder) and reliever Seranthony Dominguez as well. What else could they offer from this tier? Not much.
Nick Pivetta is an annual breakout candidate due to his raw stuff. He's nearly 400 innings into his big-league career without much in the way of good results to show for it. Pivetta will turn 27 in less than a week, so the clock is ticking if he wants to avoid a career sentence to the bullpen.
We included Enyel De Los Santos as the Phillies' 2020 contributor in their prospect list. He was originally acquired in exchange for Freddy Galvis a few years ago. He has a quality fastball-changeup pairing, but will probably end up as a reliever due to the rest of his game.
Nick Williams had a miserable 2019. He's consistently graded as a below-average defender, and he hasn't hit enough in the majors to think he's more than a bench player. This is a pivotal season for Williams, who will turn 27 in September and will qualify for arbitration after the year.
Velasquez split last season between the bullpen and the rotation. He wasn't particularly effective after rejoining the starting five in June, and yet it was his best season in years. Velasquez will be a free agent after the 2021 season. He's probably a non-tender candidate with a rough season.
Segura, who spent last season as the Phillies' shortstop, has already been bumped off one position this winter following the Didi Gregorius signing. If the Phillies add Bryant, Segura will probably find himself on another team. Though he scuffled last season, historically he's been a quality two-way contributor. If he can return to that form, then the three years and $45 million remaining on his contract will represent a bargain.
Bruce has flirted with the replacement-level line in each of the past two seasons. He pinch-hit in 17 of his 51 games last season with the Phillies. Expect that ratio to go up in 2020.
The Phillies don't have the kind of farm system typically associated with teams coming out of rebuilds, but they do have some interesting pieces that could be used to acquire another veteran contributor. There is a chance that the market for Bryant is such that the Phillies are priced out. Still, they should be considered a legitimate suitor for his services, now, and perhaps again when he reaches free agency after the 2021 season.