Why the Phillies should avoid trading for Luis Robert Jr.

The undeniable talent comes with a big red flag and a hefty price tag.
Chicago White Sox outfielder Luis Robert Jr.
Chicago White Sox outfielder Luis Robert Jr. / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

The Philadelphia Phillies continue to play winning baseball, but the injury bug has started spreading, creating challenges for manager Rob Thomson as he tries to field the best team every day.

The recent absences of Trea Turner, Brandon Marsh, and now J.T. Realmuto, have forced the Phillies to tap into organizational depth. So far, reinforcements like bench player Edmundo Sosa and call-ups Kody Clemens and David Dahl have done a great job keeping the Phillies offense on an even keel while Turner and Marsh continue to get healthy and plot their returns to the lineup.

Despite Dahl's strong performance, rumors have been swirling in the media that the Phillies are looking at acquiring another outfielder ahead of the July 30 MLB trade deadline. The name that has created the most buzz is Chicago White Sox slugger Luis Robert Jr.

Why the Phillies should avoid trading for Luis Robert Jr.

There's little doubt that the 26-year-old Robert Jr. is an extraordinary talent. The 2023 season was a breakout year for Robert Jr., as he hit .264 with 38 home runs, 80 RBI, stole 20 bases and was named an All-Star for the first time while also winning a Silver Slugger Award as the top offensive center fielder in the American League.

While those numbers and accolades point to a player taking the next step in his development, the big number that fans should circle is the 145 games he played in 2023. Thanks to injuries, he has failed to appear in more than 100 games during the first three seasons of his career.

With a staggering 40 entries related to health issues and IL stints already logged for Robert Jr. during his five seasons, the talented but often injured slugger is certainly no lock to stay healthy over a 162-game season.

This season has been more of the same for Robert Jr. He strained his hip flexor in early April and just returned to the lineup last week. In 16 games this season heading into Friday's action, the Cuban-born power hitter has managed a .200 batting average with seven home runs and 10 RBI, while striking out 24 times in 65 plate appearances.

It's a small sample size and crazy power, but with a track record of poor health, Robert Jr. is a high-risk/high-reward trade target for any team willing to meet the asking price.

White Sox's asking price is too steep considering Luis Robert Jr.'s injury history

If Robert Jr.'s 2023 season is indicative of anything, it's the type of impact player he could be for a long time if he can stay healthy. That hasn't been the case so far, and that's a big reason why the White Sox, who are in the midst of a dreadful season, have no problem exploring trade scenarios for a player who has shown signs of being a superstar.

But the cost is steep for a relatively young player who doesn't hit free agency until 2026 and has club options that extend through 2026 and 2027.

Could the Phillies use some more outfield help? That's debatable.

It depends on how confident you are that the trio of Marsh, Johan Rojas and Nick Castellanos, backed by Cristian Pache and Whit Merrifield, will hold up through the rest of the season. Should the Phillies make a major outfield upgrade and deal from the farm system? Or should they find another above-average outfielder who won't require as steep of a return?

The asking price for Robert Jr. could go as high as including top prospects Aidan Miller (No. 2) and Justin Crawford (No. 4) and potentially another top-15 prospect.

Trading Miller and Crawford for a risky player like Robert Jr. seems outright ludicrous. Miller has the potential to become the type of middle-of-the-order threat from a corner infield position on par with a player like Nolan Arenado. Crawford is a five-tool talent with developing skills and abilities that will make moving on from Castellanos an easy decision at some point in the not-so-distant future.

If the Phillies want to make moves for an outfielder before the trade deadline, it's not worth wasting the excess prospect haul on Robert Jr. An argument could be made that trading for his teammate Tommy Pham would make more sense. He would cost a lot less and keep the Phillies' roster flexible enough to explore a high-impact move this offseason — such as the impeding Juan Soto sweepstakes.

The Phillies are finally in a spot where they have enough redundancy in prospects at certain positions to make a franchise-altering trade and not set the farm system back to the Stone Age. Dave Dombrowski absolutely should make an impact move before the MLB trade deadline next month.

If the asking price comes down significantly, then the Phillies should jump at the chance. Otherwise, trading for Robert Jr. is the type of risky trade Dombrowski and the front office shouldn't even consider.