Phillies-White Sox trade for Luis Robert Jr. that would be disastrous for the future

A proposed trade sees the Phillies dealing multiple top prospects for the injury-prone center fielder.
Chicago White Sox outfielder Luis Robert Jr.
Chicago White Sox outfielder Luis Robert Jr. / Nuccio DiNuzzo/GettyImages
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The Philadelphia Phillies will be buyers leading up to the July 30 MLB trade deadline. While they could aim to improve their bullpen, according to The Athletic's Jim Bowden, the Phillies are looking to improve their outfield with an offensive upgrade.

Who could Philadelphia target if they are going to improve their roster by trading for a better offensive outfielder? In his early 2024 trade deadline preview, ESPN's Jeff Passan suggested some targets: the Houston Astros' Kyle Tucker, Randy Arozerana of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Chicago White Sox's Luis Robert Jr.

The Bleacher Report's Zachary Rymer listed the Phillies as the No. 1 landing spot for Robert Jr. and proposed a trade. Would Philadelphia benefit from this addition or is the cost of Rymer's hypothetical trade too much for the team to offer in return for the 26-year-old?

Phillies-White Sox trade for Luis Robert Jr. that would be disastrous for the future

In the proposed trade, the Phillies send three of their top prospects in return for Robert Jr.: Shortstop Aidan Miller (No. 2), outfielder Justin Crawford (No. 4) and shortstop/second baseman William Bergolla (No. 11).

Trading two of their most promising prospects, Miller and Crawford, for an outfielder who has been plagued by injuries would be a mistake. The White Sox understandably have a high asking price for Robert Jr., as he has multiple years of club control remaining and has shown immense promise and talent at the plate when not on the injured list.

In 2021, Robert Jr. only appeared in 68 contests for the White Sox. However, he slashed his way to a .338/.378/.567 line with 13 home runs and 6 stolen bases. The Guatonomo, Cuban native played in 98 games in 2022, with a .284/.319/.426 slash line, 12 homers and 11 steals despite missing 64 contests.

Last season, he played in a career-high 145 games and slashed .264/.315/.542, with 38 home runs and 20 stolen bases.

However, he has only played 12 games in 2024 after suffering a right hip flexor strain at the beginning of April. Having recently returned from the IL, he's slashing .188/.220/.479 with four home runs and one stolen base this season.

If the Phillies acquire the center fielder, how does that impact Johan Rojas' playing time for the rest of the season? Will there be a platoon between the two outfielders?

Will Brandon Marsh split time in left field with Rojas and Robert Jr., who both hit right-handed, based on pitching matchups? Marsh doesn't always play versus left-handed pitchers because he hasn't done well against left-handed throwers.

Philadelphia would deplete the top-end talent in the farm system in this risky trade

While Rymer notes the Phillies would still have their No. 1 and No. 3 prospects, pitchers Andrew Painter and Mick Abel, after completing this trade, the former is recovering from Tommy John surgery and the latter has struggled in Triple-A with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in 2024.

How much of a setback will the surgery be for Painter, Philadelphia's top-ranked prospect? Will he be able to make the majors and the Phillies' starting rotation by 2026? Will Abel be able to fulfill his potential to be an effective pitcher in the major leagues? His high ERA (6.31) in 10 starts is concerning for a top prospect who showed promise during spring training.

While Miller, who has reportedly been promoted to High-A Jersey Shore, and Crawford, currently with the BlueClaws, are each a few years from making their major league debuts, both have shown a lot of promise. The 19-year-old Bergolla has shown reliability defensively at both second base and shortstop with the rookie-level Florida Complex Phillies, the Threshers, and currently with the BlueClaws.

The return of Robert Jr., who has not proven to be healthy regularly, isn't enough for Philadelphia in exchange for Miller, Crawford, and Bergolla. Dave Dombrowski, the Phillies' president of baseball operations should look elsewhere if he's aiming to make a big upgrade at the outfield position at the trade deadline.

If Dombrowski offers two of the club's top five prospects, the returning player needs to have a better track record of durability. Making a trade for another White Sox outfielder, Tommy Pham, would cost the Phillies much less — they wouldn't need to trade Miller or Crawford.

Pham also has a recent track record with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2023 of making an impact during the postseason. While there is no guarantee Miller, Crawford, and/or Bergolla will be effective players in the majors, it's too big of a risk to take, and Dombrowski should avoid offering this trade package for Robert Jr.

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