Tag Archives: Las Vegas

Kris Bryant to the Phillies: Would he really be worth the cost?

Buzz regarding the possibility of a trade that would send third baseman Kris Bryant from the Chicago Cubs to the Philadelphia Phillies has once again re-surfaced in recent days.

Some of that is simple wild speculation, fueled in part by the pending three-team trade involving the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Minnesota Twins. That deal would send superstar outfielder Mookie Betts and veteran southpaw David Price to Los Angeles.

One thing that a big trade in Major League Baseball frequently does is spur immediate talk of the next big player that might be dealt. So, that is certainly a part of the equation here.

But another part of the equation is the building reality that, despite oddsmakers seeing the Phillies as a leading contender entering 2020 spring training, many baseball talent evaluators still place the club no better than third-best in the National League East Division.

It has also become common knowledge around the game that Chicago is shopping Bryant, who can become a free agent following the 2021 season.

Bryant could become a pivotal player in that NL East race should the Cubs really decide to actively shop him. All three of the Phillies top division rivals, the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, and New York Mets, could use an impactful starting third baseman.

Players are scheduled to report for spring training beginning next week. The Phillies enter their preparations for the coming season with Scott Kingery slotted in as the starting third baseman, keeping that position warm for top prospect Alec Bohm.

In a recent evaluation of the position among the NL East clubs, I generously slotted Kingery in at third in my ranking of those players currently slotted in as hot corner starters. Adding Bryant would give the Phillies the top player at the position in the division.

The scheduled starters for the defending World Series champion Nationals and two-time defending NL East champion Braves are among the biggest question marks for those teams at this point. Adding Bryant would push either club, already arguably better overall, further ahead of the Phillies.

So, when considering a deal with the Cubs that would bring Bryant to Philly, there are three questions that need answering. I’ll take a stab at asking and answering each.

What would Kris Bryant add to the Phillies?

Bryant was the first round pick of the Cubs in the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of San Diego as the second player taken overall.

He reached the big-leagues in 2015 at age 23 and won the NL Rookie of the Year Award for a season in which he slammed 26 homers, 62 extra-base hits, and drove in 99 runs.

The following season, Bryant became the National League Most Valuable Player. He slashed .292/.385/.554 with 39 home runs, 77 extra-base hits, 102 RBIs, and 121 runs scored. Bryant capped his season by fielding a grounder and firing to first baseman Anthony Rizzo for the final out as the Cubs won the franchise’ first World Series title in nearly a century.

Bryant is a three-time NL All-Star. Over five seasons in Major League Baseball he has produced 138 homers and has a career .284/.385/.516 slash line. He has also shown some versatility defensively in handling work at both corner outfield spots, as well as playing in a few games at first base with Chicago over the last couple of seasons.

The Phillies would not be adding Bryant to play left field or first base, at least not on a regular basis. Not at this stage of his career. He would be their third baseman for years to come. While Bryant will likely never contend for a Gold Glove, neither would he hurt the club at third base.

Born and raised in Las Vegas, Bryant is a long-time good friend of Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper, also a Vegas native. The two are virtually the same age, with Bryant having just turned 28 last month. They have known one another since they were children, and played both with and against one another while growing up.

Bryant would add another All-Star caliber ballplayer to the Phillies starting lineup. He and his family would bring true friends for franchise cornerstone Harper and his family to socialize with. And he would add another marquee name to help attract even more Phillies fans out to Citizens Bank Park.

What would it cost to bring Kris Bryant to the Phillies?

This is a big question for a few reasons. One of the biggest is that element of competing against both the Braves and Nationals for his services. Atlanta in particular would seem to have the prospect assets to at least match any Phillies offer.

Each of those clubs arguably has as much of a need at the position as the Phillies, if not more so. Each of those clubs is a legitimate contender already. Bryant would push either of those teams closer to making a long October run. Motivation for both to be involved in talks with the Cubs would appear to be there.

What this does is raise the price for the Phillies if they seriously want their package to win out in a bidding war for Bryant with Atlanta and Washington.

A package for Bryant would absolutely start with top hitting prospect Bohm, who could then become the third baseman of the near future in Chicago. But Bohm alone would not be enough.

The Phillies would have to send at least two more players in such a deal. One of those would need to be a pitcher with some upside. Another would have to be some other prospect with upside.

Would the Phillies ultimately have to decide on whether to part with both Bohm and top pitching prospect Spencer Howard in such a deal? Normally I would say no. That is especially the case when considering what the Dodgers had to part with to get the Betts deal done.

Los Angeles is reported to be sending 23-year-old outfielder Alex Verdugo to Boston and veteran pitcher Kenta Maeda to Minnesota in order to get the deal done.

There was rumored to be some element of competition for Betts in this deal as well. The Dodgers up-and-coming division rivals in San Diego were also said to be interested in Betts, and the Padres have a strong minor league system from which to offer a prospect package.

What is not known is exactly how high a price the Padres were ultimately willing to pay. Also, the Dodgers are reportedly giving Boston some salary relief in the deal, taking on half of the $96 million still owed to Price over the next three seasons. So it’s a different kind of deal.

If the Phillies aren’t willing to put Howard into such a deal, and the likelihood is that they would not, then could they still offer enough to beat out the Braves or Nationals potential offers?

The Phillies could put together a package of Bohm, Kingery, and either of two other pitching prospects, Francisco Morales or Adonis Medina. Morales has a higher ceiling at this point. But by including Kingery, they might be able to get the Cubs to go for Medina instead. Chicago might prefer young infield prospect Luis Garcia, which might alleviate putting Kingery into the deal.

Is Bryant worth the price it would cost?

The Phillies would be getting a player with five years of big-league experience. A three-time All-Star, including last season during which he slammed 31 homers, slashed .282/.382/.521, and scored 108 runs. A former NL MVP who has already won a World Series championship.

While Bryant would only have two seasons of contractual control left it isn’t difficult to see him agreeing to a long-term deal. That would keep he and Harper together as the Phillies 1-2 lineup punch for at least the next seven or eight years.

There is an old baseball axiom that says prospects are prospects. While evaluators can gauge their potential, there is no way to know how a kid with no big-league experience is going to perform against the best players in the world under the glare of the largest spotlight on the biggest stage.

I believe that the Phillies need something even more than another strong offensive weapon. It has been and remains my assertion that the Phillies need another proven, talented, winning veteran starting pitcher for their rotation more than anything else. But that is a difficult piece to acquire, and should not keep general manager Matt Klentak from making his team better right now.

Bryant has proven himself to be one of the top offensive performers in baseball. He is in his prime. He is a lifelong friend of the Phillies resident superstar. He would help close the gap even further between the Phillies and the top teams in the National League. This is a deal they should find a way to get done.

 

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Oddsmakers list Phillies among 2020 World Series favorites

So, you’re a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and you feel as if general manager Matt Klentak has not done enough this off-season to elevate your favorite .500 ball club to 2020 contender status?

Well, the folks who set the odds on such things, people not known to make their evaluations through rose-colored glasses, do not rate the team’s potential quite as poorly as some of you.

Oddsmakers at Sports Betting Dime (SBD) currently show the Phillies as having the seventh-highest odds in all of Major League Baseball. This is in line with numerous other sources rating the Phillies as having anywhere from the fifth to eighth best odds to finish the upcoming season as world champions.

While consistently receiving odds placing them within the top  eight teams in the game by betting sites during this off-season, there remains some sobering news for the Fightin’ Phils chances to not only capture the 2020 Fall Classic, but to even win the division or reach the postseason as an NL Wildcard team.

The two-time defending NL East champion Atlanta Braves have the fourth-best odds at the moment, placing them second overall in the National League behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers. The defending world champion Washington Nationals odds place them just ahead of the Phillies as well.

A third division-rival, the New York Mets, slipped past the Phillies to finish in third place in the NL East standings a year ago. The Mets current odds place them right on the Phillies heels for the upcoming season.

Keep in mind that odds in Las Vegas and at some online sites reflect not only actual talent, but also where the money is flowing. In any event, it appears obvious as we prepare to open spring training that the Phillies are being looked upon as legitimate contenders by the professional gambling community.

Where do I think Joe Girardi, Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and the Phillies will finish in 2020? I won’t be making that prediction until some time in mid-March.

But those fans of the Philadelphia Phillies who remain skeptical regarding the team’s ability to contend in 2020 should draw some comfort that the smart money and the oddsmakers currently like their chances.

 

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Baseball’s hot stove begins to heat up

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Alex Rodriguez was a big free agent signing with Texas at the 2000 baseball winter meetings

 

For baseball fans, the winter can be particularly cold, dark, and long. From the end of the final game of the World Series in late October until Spring Training gets going in February, there are four months without the game that we must endure.

For the most hard core of us, the game never really goes away fully, and this week will find our National Pastime once again in the headlines.

This is the week that Major League Baseball holds its ‘Winter Meetings’ at the Bellagio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Front-office executives from each of the MLB teams will be present, along with players, their agents, vendors, job-seekers, fans, and media.

There will be numerous presentations, meetings, discussions, and social engagements. But perhaps the biggest function of the Winter Meetings is always the full opening of the ‘Hot Stove League’, the name coined to describe the frenzied discussion of player movement via trades and free agent signings.

Since the end of the World Series, which this year has made the off-season much more endurable for we Phillies fans thanks to the still-warm glow of our second-ever world championship, players and teams have been prepping for this week.

The Phillies have a pair of key free agent players, outfielder Pat Burrell and starting pitcher Jamie Moyer. The prevailing wisdom is that Burrell’s decade-long career with the Fightin’s has come to an end, and that the club will not make a big effort to re-sign the slugging left fielder, at least not unless it becomes a last-choice type scenario.

Burrell turned 32-years-old during the playoffs in October, and is viewed as a player severely limited defensively, a situation that will only worsen as he moves through his 30’s. He will be seeking a multi-year contract for a lot of money, and the Phils just don’t see him as a prudent investment. The club may be right, depending on his actual price, but it will still be sad to see the longtime hero leave town.

Moyer is another story. The club wants him back for next season, but again, age and cost are two considerations. Moyer turned 46-years-old just a few weeks ago, and it is very possible that the Phillies squeezed one final productive turn from the seasoned lefty this past year.

There are some huge names available as free agents this year including starting pitchers C.C. Sabathia, Derek Lowe, and A.J. Burnett. There are any number of intriguing starting pitchers including Brad Penny, Ben Sheets, Oliver Perez, Jon Garland, and future Hall of Famers Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine.

At the back of the bullpen, closer Francisco Rodriguez broke the single-season Saves record this year just in time to hit the free agent market. He leads a group of closers that includes all-time Saves leader Trevor Hoffman, Brian Fuentes, Kerry Wood, and Brandon Lyon.

Need a hitter? MLB clubs have many here to choose from as well. The two biggest prizes are first baseman Mark Teixeira and outfielder Manny Ramirez. Tex is just entering his prime, and is one of the top hitters in the game as well as perhaps the best defensive first sacker around.

Ramirez is older, but proved last season that he is in great shape and still capable of carrying a team for months at a time. The Phillies found out all about that in the NLCS, when it often seemed like it was their team against Manny alone.

The other available bats include Burrell, third baseman Casey Blake, shortstop Rafael Furcal, and two of the game’s most underrated players in second baseman Orlando Hudson and outfielder Raul Ibanez.

The Phillies reportedly have interest in Ibanez, and have also reportedly put a formal offer on the table for Lowe. The  club is rumored to be shopping for one more strong arm to add to what is already one of baseball’s best bullpens.

Whether they will make any deals is questionable. There is much talk that the local nine will be satisfied perhaps with going after a complimentary bat to add outfield depth, and instead will concentrate on signing both Jayson Werth and Ryan Madson to long term deals.

Baseball’s ‘super-agent’, Scott Boras, will be highly visible as he and his group represent a number of the top free agents.

The dominoes are likely to begin falling with the signing of Sabathia. As soon as this highest rated hurler signs, watch the other deals, both free agent signings and trades, begin to come fast and furious.

Of course, we could leave the Winter Meetings with just a few signings and deals, but the groundwork will have been laid for others that will come within a week or two, definitely before Christmas.

So, this next week is an important time for baseball teams to improve their rosters. You can catch all of the big Winter Meetings news on ESPN’s outstanding program ‘Baseball Tonight’, which will air special editions from Monday through Thursday at 5pm.

The ‘Hot Stove’ is heating up, warming all baseball fans just as winter’s cold begins to set in across the nation.

Arrogant and ignorant and guilty as sin

Orenthal James Simpson, the jury in this matter finds you guilty! Guilty, OJ! No smiles for you. No smirks this time. No look of shocked disbelief on your face that you had beaten the system.

Thirteen years ago, former football star and celebrity O.J. Simpson got away with murder. I remember that day well, and listening to the verdict on a car radio while most of America watched it on television.

I couldn’t see it on TV because my then-fiancee Debbie and I were driving home from an appointment involving our wedding, which at that point was just four days away.

As the foreperson prepared to read the verdict we pulled over, and somewhere around Cottman Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard, sitting in our car, we heard those incredibly unjust words.

Simpson had beaten the charges of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and a young man named Ron Goldman. He had nearly decapitated the mother of his children, and had gotten away with it thanks to an incredibly inept prosecution and a high-powered, highly competent, and expensive defense team.

Reaction to the verdict once again highlighted the racial disparity of America. Almost to a one, white Americans saw the verdict for the true injustice that it was. A cold-blooded killer with a history of spousal abuse had finally killed the woman, and now a jury had let him off despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt.

The large majority of black Americans instead cheered the verdict. They did so not as much for any belief in the innocence of O.J. himself, but because, as they saw it, an African-American had beaten a justice system that many of them felt had wrongly convicted innumerable blacks over the course of its history.

A black man had beaten the unjust system was how they saw it, and his own personal actions be damned. Of course that should be an embarrassing position for any black American to take. That is particularly so for any black woman who has ever been the victim of abuse and intimidation from a black man.

In any event, Simpson got away with murder that day. However, a civil jury in a later court action found him appropriately liable for the killings, and choked off his financial resources.

For his part, Simpson said that he would begin a search for “the real killers”, and publicly set about said search on golf courses across America. He even had the unmitigated gall to write a book titled “I Did It” in which he described how he committed the murders.

The courts confiscated the book rights and turned them over to the families of the murder victims. Thus what was finally titled “If I Did It” was published, with proceeds going to the victim families. But Simpson himself continued to walk the golf courses of America for more than a decade as a free man.

In the recent case for which he has been found guilty, a verdict came down exactly 13 years to the day after his previous ‘not guilty’ verdict in the murder trial. It involved a completely separate incident.

Simpson was loaded for bear with a handgun when he and some associates raided a Las Vegas hotel room in an effort to take items of sports memorabilia which he claimed were his own. The jury in this case found him guilty of robbery and related charges which included the weapons charges.

This week, a judge sentenced the now 61-year old Simpson to between nine and 33 years in prison. In admonishing him after the sentencing, she stated that she could not tell during the trial if Simpson was “arrogant or ignorant, or both” and stated that she now knew the answer. That answer, of course, was that he is both.

The man known as ‘The Juice’ then squeezed out a few crocodile tears as he continued to proclaim his innocence. The fact of the matter is that O.J. Simpson is guilty as sin, and the fact that he was walking around for the last 13 years was a travesty of justice to Americans, an insult to the Brown and Goldman families, and an inexcusable spit on the graves of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman themselves.

That the arrogant and ignorant criminal murderer finally tripped up in his life to the extent that he could not wiggle his way out of it finally begins to set things right.

The two trials were unrelated, had nothing to do with one another, and yet it doesn’t feel that way. It feels as if justice is finally being served. It feels as if a murderous killer who thumbed his nose at society is finally going to face the truth of a life behind bars that is the minimum he deserves.

As Goldman’s father said yesterday, the verdict will not bring Ron and Nicole back. But what it does is put a killer where he belongs, behind bars, and for a long time.

Here is to hoping that he spends the rest of his life there before he has to stand before the ultimate judge at the end of his life. At that point, a billion Johnny Cochrane’s won’t help him escape final judgment.

The Juice is not loose

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O.J. Simpson arrives at court last month during his robbery trial

 

Have you ever known someone who got away with some extreme crime or a personally hurtful action and been frustrated and angry, but there was nothing you could do about it?

You know, when you get that thought across your mind that “They will get what they have coming to them some day.”

Maybe you just believed that the person was so personally or professionally irresponsible by nature that they were bound to mess up again, or commit another crime, and that next time they wouldn’t be so fortunate as to get away?

Well, it has finally happened for those of us normal human beings as relates to the life and crimes of one Orenthal James ‘O.J.’ Simpson.

The murderer who nearly decapitated his wife and the mother of this children, Nicole Simpson, and who overpowered and sliced up a young waiter, Ron Goldman, who was simply returning sunglasses to her, over a decade ago and got away with it won’t be getting away with his latest crime.

A jury in Las Vegas found Simpson guilty on a dozen charges, including armed robbery and kidnapping, and the two-time murderer – as a civil trial found him responsible – will hopefully now spend the rest of his life behind bars.

All those people who stood and cheered and applauded on that somber day in late summer of 1995 when Johnny Cochrane and his brilliant legal team put on a spirited, financially extravagant defense to free the murderer, are now sitting on their hands. Some of them are probably even thinking “they was gonna get him, they wasn’t gonna let him get away, they wouldn’t let him breathe.”

Fact is, no imaginary ‘they‘ had to do anything to ‘get‘ this particular murderer. Like most of them, all he needed was to be left out in the world long enough, and he was going to slip up again.

Thankfully he slipped up so big that the rest of us, those who didn’t care about race or anything other than finding justice for Nicole and Ron, finally have a measure of it.

Simpson, known during his playing days as ‘The Juice’, is finally where he has belonged all along: behind bars. He no longer has to worry about scouring the nation’s golf courses in an attempt to track down “the real killers.”

Unfortunately we are left with the same attitude as always among those who cheered his previous fortune.

They continue to wail and cry when one member of their community murders another. They continue to defend their sons and brothers after they kill and maim and rob, consistently calling them a ‘good boy’ who just had some bad breaks in life.

The fact is that people make their choices and have to live with the ramifications of those actions. Those around them need to stop accepting this when it is done over and over again, and need to hold them responsible within their families and communities.

Should there be forgiveness for sins? Of course. Who among us hasn’t made mistakes, some huge, in their lives?

I certainly have. But I haven’t murdered anyone, let alone two people, had tens of thousands cheer my release, and then walked around for over a decade flaunting that court room victory.

The murderer is finally in the cage where belongs, where he can’t murder or rob any more innocent citizens (not to mention family members), and likely he will remain there for the rest of his life.

God will one day serve whatever ultimate justice He feels is appropriate for the murderer, but for now justice is served, and the Juice is no longer loose.