Revisiting Kris Bryant trade situation for Phillies with Mookie Betts off the board

Revisiting Kris Bryant trade situation for Phillies with Mookie Betts off the board

Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado.

While it looks increasingly likely that Colorado opens the season with Arenado, a big piece of the Bryant puzzle was finally solved last week when an arbiter ruled in favor of the Cubs, determining that Bryant would not gain an extra year of service time for the clear manipulation the Cubs pulled with him in 2015 when they called him up to the majors one day after the cutoff. 

It means that Bryant is under two full years of club control. It’s a huge benefit to the Cubs because two years of a very good player will net you more in a trade than one. 

NBC Sports Chicago’s David Kaplan reported that Bryant is open-minded to signing a long-term extension but hasn’t received an offer close to what he is seeking.       

It is unlikely Bryant stays put beyond 2021. The Cubs haven’t exactly been spending money lately, if you haven’t noticed. They’ve guaranteed a grand total of $3.5 million to outfielder Steven Souza Jr. and three relievers this offseason. That’s it. Years of really bad spending (Jason Heyward, Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood, Craig Kimbrel to an extent) led to this point. Aside from having a bloated payroll, the Cubs also need the exciting young talent they’d hope to net in a Bryant trade. 

NBC Sports Boston: Making sense of the Mookie Betts trade

Bryant is a very good player. He’s not at the level of an Arenado or Anthony Rendon. He just isn’t that kind of hitter. Close to it but not quite. Bryant is a consistent .280-.290 bat with a high on-base percentage and 30-home-run power. The power isn’t what it once was, or what it is still billed to be. Bryant averaged 35 homers per 162 games in his first three seasons and 30 in his last two.

Still a great skill set any team would love to have. But there is no guarantee Bryant is going to be a tippy-top offensive performer over the next two years or next five years. Very good? Sure. But you don’t commit a $225-250 million contract to a player for anything less than the expectation of elite production. And those will undoubtedly be the figures Bryant and agent Scott Boras are eyeballing. From their perspective, Bryant is almost an equal hitter just with more athleticism and versatility. He can play both infield and outfield corners and a passable center field. Whether he still can at say, age 32, is a different story. 

Will the Phillies trade for Bryant? Many of their pursuits are made in silence so the perception of inactivity means little here. If forced to make a bet one way or the other though, I’d say it’s not happening. Camp is in two weeks. The Phillies have an entire infield of players they liked a lot at some point over the last 12 months. Of course Bryant would be an upgrade over everyone in that infield, but you can’t acquire Kris Bryant for a package of B-level prospects. A trade would cost a lot. Even two years of Bryant would be worth a top prospect and several more attractive pieces. A plausible negotiation would have the Cubs asking for both Alec Bohm and Spencer Howard plus more, the Phillies countering with Bohm and other goodies and the end result maybe costing Bohm and 2-3 more players you don’t feel comfortable moving. 

The Phillies, as any fan knows, have not had an impressive recent track record of graduating consistently productive players to the majors. Aaron Nola, Hector Neris, Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery is not enough in-house development. Not if you want to be a perennial 90-win team with a real chance to win a World Series. 

The Phillies need the prospects they’d otherwise trade for Bryant to pan out here. They need them to become low-cost contributors that supplement the high-paid core of Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Nola and Zack Wheeler. Almost every champion you can find had good, exciting players in key roles. Juan Soto and Trea Turner combined to make just over $4 million for the 2019 Nationals. There’s no Scherzer-Strasburg-Corbin without several inexpensive starting players, and there’s no championship if those inexpensive starters don’t vastly outperform their price tag. 

The Phillies don’t have a Soto. Few teams do. They don’t even have a Turner, unless you think Kingery has that sort of ceiling and I haven’t yet seen enough to believe it. 

But still, you can’t just go out and pay an immense cost in dollars or young talent — or both — for every improvement. 

I did think the Phillies should have aggressively pursued Rendon. He’s better than Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and maybe all but three position players in baseball. 

I do think they should stay in touch with the Rockies about Arenado, who is elite offensively and defensively. It would be contingent on them working out some sort of renegotiation of his opt-out, explained in more detail here

Bryant? I just don’t see how the wisest mid- or long-term play for the Phillies is to acquire a very good but not great player who costs — in prospects and contract — what a truly great player would cost.

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MLB rule changes: 6 ideas to boost MLB's entertainment value

MLB rule changes: 6 ideas to boost MLB's entertainment value

Before Commissioner Rob Manfred implemented a 60-game season last week, many a pundit discussed the inability of the owners and players to come to an agreement and its negative impact on the sport. Another topic of conversation that emerged was the dissatisfaction of many with the state of the game itself.

Baseball has always been my favorite sport and it remains so. But even I have to acknowledge that cracks have emerged in the facade of the grand old game. Much of the blame can be directed to the influx of analytics which has stripped the game of activity and transformed contests into 3-plus hour science experiments. 

So what can the sport's leadership do to increase the entertainment value for fans not interested in watching how algorithms play out in real-time? Here are some ideas:

Expand the strike zone

There was a time when it was exciting to see if a top hitter could connect off a top pitcher. Now it's a struggle to work the count and deliver "good takes." If MLB returns to calling the high strike, it will theoretically cut down on walks and force hitters to swing the bat, thus creating more balls in play and more action. It should also cut down on the length of games.

Eliminate video review

In theory, video review is great. Umpires are human and no one wants honest mistakes to alter the outcome of a game. But in practice, video review has been a tedious endeavor with little satisfaction concerning inconsequential plays. How many times have you watched a replay and still not been able to tell if the tag beat the runner? That doesn't even factor in the time wasted waiting to see if a team wants to review a play in the first place.

Video review has also dramatically reduced the opportunity to see one of the game's great moments, the on-field manager/umpire argument. Give me more Billy Martin and Larry Bowa losing it and less Joe West in a headset.

Eliminate interleague play

Setting aside the unique circumstances of this upcoming season and the need to reduce travel as much as possible, it's time for interleague play to leave the game. There was a time when this concept made sense. The chance to see Ken Griffey Jr. or the Yankees play in an NL park was exciting because you didn't really see them otherwise. 

Technology and social media have now made it so that any fan can see every Mike Trout highlight moments after they occur. And for every series where you might get to see Trout or the Yankees or Red Sox, there's three more against the likes of the Tigers, White Sox and Rangers. Those are season stoppers. What's more interesting to Phillies fans: a 3-game series against the Mariners or another crack at the Mets? 

This plan would require realignment. No big deal. Send the Astros back to the NL.

Reduce distance between bases to 88 feet

As we mentioned above, baseball games currently lack action. Middle infielders swing for the fences and very few players attempt to steal bases on a consistent basis. Reducing the length between the bases from 90 feet to 88 feet would hopefully incentivize putting the ball in play and encourage more stolen base attempts without fundamentally changing the nature of the game.

Big milestone bonus

One of the things that baseball has lost for most of this century is the pursuit of significant single-season milestones. When was the last time a player chased one of baseball's hallowed records in a season? In the 1990s, Tony Gwynn took a run at .400 before the strike ended his quest. Roger Maris' home run record of 61 was in play until Mark McGwire set the new standard in 1998. The specialized nature of the game and the increase in the Three True Outcomes (walk, strikeout, home run) have all but squashed the chase for single-season milestones.

Baseball's regular season needs storylines like that to captivate fans on a national level. So let's incentivize it. Each team contributes $1 million a season for a pool of $30 million total. If a player reaches a significant milestone or record, they receive that money as a milestone.

If I were choosing, I'd establish the following as the marks:

• HR record
• RBI record
• .400 BA
• 57-game hit streak
• 30 wins
• Sub-1.50 ERA (with minimum 175 innings)
• 350 strikeouts
• 70 saves

If a season passes without one of these milestones being hit, the pool rolls over. Imagine the interest if in 2022 a player was within striking distance of one of these marks and $30 million was on the line.

Reset the home run records

This idea is the companion of the previous suggestion. Thanks to performance-enhancing drugs, baseball's single-season home run record has become untouchable. Lost with it is a significant piece of the game's charm, the legitimate pursuit of immortality. We all know that the top-six home run seasons of all-time (belonging to Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa) are inauthentic displays of science run amok. The commissioner should deem them as such and reestablish the sport's home run record as Maris' 61 total from 1961. 

It's not like track and field allows world record times to stand if runners test positive for steroids. Why should baseball? It's not just the right thing to do, it will also bring the sport's most important record back into play. While he's at it, Manfred can also reset the all-time HR record to Hank Aaron's total of 755.

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Former Phillies pitcher Tyson Brummett dies in plane crash in Utah

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Former Phillies pitcher Tyson Brummett dies in plane crash in Utah

Former Phillies pitcher Tyson Brummett died Friday morning in a plane crash in Utah. 

Brummett, 35, was piloting the small plane when it crashed in the Wasatch Mountains outside Salt Lake City, according to the Utah County Sheriff’s Office. 

All four passengers died in the crash — Brummett, his 35-year-old friend Alex Bruegner, and Bruegner’s uncle and aunt, Douglas (62) and Elaine Blackhurst (60). 

Brummett had a cup of coffee for the 2012 Phillies, making one appearance in Game 162. He was in the Phillies’ system from 2007-12, pitching 110 total innings at Triple A Lehigh Valley. 

The Phillies drafted Brummett in the seventh round in 2007. He was one of seven players drafted and signed by the Phillies that year to eventually make the majors, the others being Travis d’Arnaud, Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus, Joe Savery, Michael Taylor and Brian Schlitter.

Tragically, Brummett is the third former Phillies pitcher since 2006 to die piloting a plane. Roy Halladay crashed into the Gulf of Mexico in November 2017, and Cory Lidle flew into an apartment complex on New York’s Upper East Side in October 2006.

Members of the UCLA baseball family reacted Saturday morning to the loss of Brummett, a former Bruin.