There was only one acceptable answer. Credit the Phillies for realizing it. There are plenty of scenarios that would have offered Dave Dombrowski and John Middleton an opportunity to talk themselves out of including the organization’s top hitting prospect on the opening-day roster. In a lot of those situations, the Phillies would have been doing the right thing the same way they are now.

Bryson Stott isn’t getting his shot because of morals or ethics or organizational goodwill. He is getting his shot because it makes the most sense, both competitively and economically, short-term and long-term.

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Perhaps a quick catch-up is in order, because a lot has happened in a short amount of time. Three years ago this June, the Phillies used the No. 14 overall pick in the draft to select Stott out of UNLV, where he established himself as one of the sweetest-swinging shortstops in collegiate baseball. The organization touted him as a player who could make a quick rise to the majors and reverse the Phillies’ ongoing misfortunes with first-round picks.

That trajectory was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which canceled the 2020 minor-league season and left Stott with just 237 professional plate appearances heading into last season. But from the moment he stepped into the batter’s box, all he did was hit.

He destroyed Class A pitching for 22 games and then posted a .301/.368/481 batting line in 351 plate appearances at double-A Reading. After finishing the year at triple A, Stott tore up the Arizona Fall League, hitting .318/.445/.489 in 119 plate appearances.

The subplot to all of this was the ongoing collective bargaining negotiations between Major League Baseball and the players union, during which prospects like Stott were featured front and center. The old CBA essentially gave teams the choice between allowing players to reach free agency after six seasons or keeping them in the minors long enough to ensure that they would have to stick around for a seventh season. Because the agreement did little to incentivize the former, teams generally picked the latter.

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Standard operating procedure was to keep a guy like Stott in the minors for the season’s first couple of months, in order to assure that he did not accrue a full year of service. While the new agreement — barely a month old — offers some meaningful incentives for teams to avoid such maneuvering, Stott’s immediate future was nevertheless a prominent plot line throughout spring training.

In the end, such concerns proved to be secondary. The Phillies’ decision to keep Stott on the opening-day roster, revealed Tuesday, was less a victory of labor over capital as it was an example of the mutually beneficial nature of their existence. Dombrowski, Joe Girardi, Middleton — they needed Stott on their roster from the get-go. Or, at least, they needed to start the process of finding out if he belongs.

As I wrote a couple of days ago, the Phillies are not yet at a point where they can take a playoff berth for granted, let alone consider themselves World Series contenders. Girardi has compared his current lineup to his 2009 Yankees team, but he surely realizes that his former World Series champs had virtually no holes. And he surely realizes that the Phillies face the prospect of following their vaunted top six with three epic voids.

Last year, they ranked among the worst-hitting NL teams at three positions, including the two that Stott can potentially play. Apart from Stott, the personnel at third base, shortstop, and center field looks very much the same as it did in 2021, when the Phillies ranked 13th, 13th, and 14th in OPS. That’s essentially three whole innings that you are giving away.

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With Stott, they have a player who has potential to turn a very good lineup into the kind of unit that can overcome the train wreck of a pitching staff that the Phillies could very well have. Nobody expects him to reach base in 53% of his plate appearances, as he did in 12 spring training games. He doesn’t even need to approach the .934 OPS he posted in the Arizona Fall League. If Stott can give them a league average bat in the No. 7 hole, it could easily be the difference between missing the playoffs and a division title.

This is where the conventional economic wisdom ceases to exist. How much are three home playoff games worth to the Phillies? How many more regular-season tickets would result from a hot April start? And if Stott turns into a marketable star? That extra year of free agency will pay for itself.

This is as much about the lack of options beyond Stott as it is itself. The next men up at shortstop and third are the same as they were: Didi Gregorius, who hit .209 with a .639 OPS last season, and Alec Bohm, who checked in at .247 and .647. Maybe the 25-year-old Bohm rediscovers the promise he showed two years ago as a rookie. Maybe the 32-year-old Gregorius can give the Phillies the above-average hitter he was in 2020. Maybe Stott struggles against big-league pitching. If so, fine. You can always send him down.

At this point, though, there was no excuse to wait to find out. None whatsoever. The only downside is that the Phillies end up wishing they had Stott under contract for one more year. But if that ends up being the case six years from now, it will be a good thing. Because it will mean that Stott was a good thing. And the Phillies will be in better shape for having that good thing now.

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