Bryce Harper will be the Phillies’ first baseman moving forward, Dave Dombrowski revealed from the GM meetings in Arizona on Wednesday afternoon.
The Phillies’ president of baseball operations told reporters there has been a conversation with Harper, who has expressed a willingness to play first base or outfield. The Phils are making the decision that it’s time for him to move fully to first base.
Dombrowski relayed that he spoke to free agent Rhys Hoskins about the decision. This doesn’t completely close the door on Hoskins returning to the Phils but he is now a big target. The Phillies want to use Kyle Schwarber as their everyday designated hitter after seeing how significant that improvement will be defensively after the All-Star break in 2023.
With Harper at first base and Schwarber at DH, there’s no everyday spot for Haskins. If Hoskins ends up signing a short-term deal to re-establish his value as a free agent for next year, he will want to do so at a position that offers the greatest opportunity for playing time and that won’t be the case here. The Phillies’ longest-tenured player appears to be on his way out, likely alongside their longest-tenured player overall, free agent Aaron Nola.
Harper has never played first base before 2023. He pitched the idea to the Phillies during the first month of the season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. They thought about it and tried it. He has adapted to the position quickly with his instinct and athleticism often emerging and taking over. He has commented several times about how good it feels to have dirt under his feet for the first time as a pro.
Harper has dealt with numerous injuries so far as Philly – elbow, back, thumb, face and forearm. His games he missed this season as a Philly were 5, 2, 21, 63 and 36. Playing first base may be a way to keep him healthier for the remaining eight seasons on his 13-year contract.
With the decision to keep Harper at first base, the only change to the Phillies’ 2024 lineup may be in left field or center. The Phillies aren’t handing center field to Johan Rojas, they want him to deserve it. It’s possible he could end up being in Brandon Marsh’s place on Opening Day, which would open up left field. So that place, left field, will be the place the Phillies have to deal with this season. Potential free agent options include Joc Pederson, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Tommy Pham, Teoscar Hernandez, Hunter Renfrow, Jorge Soler, and Adam Duvall.
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