Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Door shut on Trout trade for Phillies?

Tim Kelly
February 08, 2019 - 7:40 am

If the Philadelphia Phillies making a trade for Mike Trout in the next 17 months was ever a possibility, it became significantly less realistic Thursday.

The Phillies acquired J.T. Realmuto, arguably the best catcher in baseball, from the Miami Marlins Thursday. When you add Realmuto to a lineup that already includes Rhys Hoskins, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen and Odubel Herrera - and still feels likely to add either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado - Realmuto’s addition should give the Phillies a playoff-caliber lineup in 2019.

Of course, acquiring a division rival’s best player doesn’t come without a hefty price. Sixto Sanchez - the No. 21 prospect in all of baseball, per MLB Pipeline - headlines the return the Phillies sent to South Beach.

Sanchez, 20, has never pitched a game above the Single-A level. Elbow inflammation limited him to just 46.2 innings all of 2018. Despite having drawn comparisons to Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, it’s entirely possible he never pans out. But that’s not really the point.

The point is that the Dominican-born right-hander was the most valuable trade chip that the Phillies possessed in their farm system. Save for Aaron Nola, he may have been the most valuable trade asset in the Phillies entire organization.

As Philadelphia-based rapper Meek Mill (among many others) has often said: “Scared money don’t make no money.” General manager Matt Klentak pushed his chips to the center of the table in this deal, and acquired an All-Star that almost certainly will be part of the first Phillies team to post a winning record since 2011. In acquiring Realmuto, the Phillies notably increased their chances to reach the postseason for the first time since 2011 as well.

But if the Los Angeles Angels were to make Trout available next offseason, weary of losing him in free-agency after the 2020 season, it’s now hard to imagine the Phillies being able to put together a competitive trade package. Nola isn’t going anywhere. It’s unclear if the Phillies would be willing to move Hoskins for the chance to employ Trout, but even if they were, he’s less than two years younger than Trout and projects as a DH for an American League team. Hoskins wouldn’t be enough as a headliner to convince the Angels to part with the greatest position player since Barry Bonds.

It is fair to wonder if the Phillies ever had enough to theoretically put together an offer that could win the Trout trade sweepstakes, should they commence. Much of it likely would have depended on Sanchez’s ability to bounce back from a season that saw him limited to less than 50 innings by the aforementioned elbow injury. It also would have depended on the Angels and Trout not ultimately agreeing to an extension in the meantime.

So there were a lot of ifs to begin with. The Phillies best chance to ever lure Trout was probably if he were to reach free-agency after the 2020 season. He does have a full no-trade clause, so he could essentially force his way there if he chooses. But if general manager Billy Eppler comes to him in the meantime with a chance to go to another major market contender (the Dodgers, either New York team), the guess here is he would have a hard time turning it down.

Beyond Trout, the Phillies, like the Sixers, are in a position now where it would be difficult for them to make any additional major trades. It’s hard to see a path to them acquiring an established ace, such as Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer. The Phillies, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, ultimately weren’t willing to part with Sanchez for new Mets closer Edwin Diaz, but it’s hard to imagine them being able to make a trade for an elite closer in the near future.

The Phillies didn’t part with Adonis Medina, their No. 2 overall pitching prospect, in the Realmuto trade. Joel Sherman of The New York Post says the Phillies were insistent on not including Alec Bohm, Adam Haseley, Mickey Moniak or Luis Garcia, their four highest-rated position prospects. The farm system isn’t decimated, which some feared it would be by a trade of this magnitude, but it certainly lacks a blue-chip talent now.

But one of the things you are taught as an athlete is to worry about who is in the picture, not who isn’t. The Phillies have added Realmuto, Segura, McCutchen and David Robertson this offseason. By the end of the week, the baseball world will return to being drained by the free-agent stints of Harper and Machado. But at some point, the two will decide their respective futures, and the Phillies still seem likely to land one of the two.

So maybe the Phillies won’t ever trade for Trout. Maybe the door is closed on adding another elite starter behind Nola, at least through a trade. But the Phillies have significantly improved a roster that entered last August in first place in the National League East. They’re in a damn good position.

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