Shortstop Francisco Lindor is a star, probably a better all-around player than even J.T. Realmuto. He's available this offseason, with the Indians looking to trade him a year before he reaches free agency to avoid the exact situation the Phillies face with Realmuto.
The Phillies, despite their opening at shortstop with Didi Gregorius also a free agent, are not positioned well to trade for Lindor for several reasons.
They are unsure of their ability to re-sign Realmuto. They are no longer viewed as the favorite, with many looking to the Mets. Lindor, 27 years old this week, is in line for an even bigger contract.
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Lindor is a career .285/.346/.488 hitter with full-season averages of 40 doubles, 29 homers, 86 RBI and 21 stolen bases. Like Realmuto, he plays elite defense at a premium position. Lindor's won two Gold Gloves, made four straight All-Star teams and is 2½ years younger than Realmuto.
If you're unlikely to extend Lindor beyond 2021, there is no valid reason to trade for him unless you think you can win a World Series in 2021, as the Dodgers did prior to this season with Mookie Betts. They eventually reached an extension with Betts and also won that World Series.
Even if the Phillies were to lose Realmuto in free agency next week, it would not make sense to trade good young pieces for Lindor and then face a similar contract dilemma with him. Especially with a loaded free-agent shortstop class next year with Lindor, Trevor Story, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa and Javier Baez.
The Phillies — especially if they're unable to retain Realmuto after trading their top prospect Sixto Sanchez for him in February 2019 — cannot afford to part with another potential building block to fill a hole. They aren't deep enough at the major- or minor-league level to do so right now.
What might Lindor cost via trade? The first deal to revisit is the Betts trade from nine months ago. The Red Sox traded Betts, who had a year left on his deal with a mega payday awaiting, to the Dodgers for outfielder Alex Verdugo and recent highly drafted position players Jeter Downs and Connor Wong.
It was not a strong haul for the Red Sox, but at the very least they got Verdugo, a player in his mid-20s who can hit in the top half of a lineup. If the Phillies had to meet a similar asking price for Lindor, who would be the Verdugo equivalent? Cleveland probably wouldn't accept Adam Haseley as a centerpiece, for example.
Pursuing Lindor or one of the other great shortstops in free agency next year makes much more sense for the Phillies, particularly because they'll have a better grasp then of their front office dynamic and actual spending threshold. The development of 23-year-old 2019 first-round pick Bryson Stott, a shortstop, will factor into those plans.
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