Bryce Harper received his timetable after undergoing Tommy John surgery. After an initial report stated Harper could return to “hitting competitively” in May, the Phillies revealed that they are expecting Harper to return as a DH by the All-Star break. The team added that he could possibly return to the outfield towards the end of the season. With Bryce Harper expected to miss half of the 2023 campaign, the Phillies need to re-address their free agency plan.
Phillies' outfield without Bryce Harper
The Phillies outfield is set to have Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos in the corners with Brandon Marsh patrolling centerfield. However, the Phillies do not need to save the DH spot for Bryce Harper anymore. As a result, they have options in free agency.
Neither Schwarber or Castellanos are especially talented on the defensive side of the ball. However, Castellanos did impress defensively during the postseason. Nevertheless, they don't need to keep both Castellanos and Schwarber in the outfield. The Phillies can either make one of them a full-time DH to open the year, or they can utilize a rotation.
Bryce Harper's effect on free agency strategy
The Phillies have been linked to a number of shortstops, including Bryce Harper's former Washington Nationals teammate Trea Turner. And he is likely their top priority this offseason. But this is an organization that has displayed a willingness to spend no shortage of money in the past. Philadelphia could look to sign an outfielder in free agency.
Andrew Benintendi and Cody Bellinger would make sense for the team. Mitch Haniger is also an option. Bellinger is a centerfielder but can also play right or left field if necessary. Philadelphia's defense would improve with both Bellinger and Marsh in the outfield. Additionally, Cody Bellinger is reportedly seeking a 1-year deal.
Andrew Benintendi would likely prefer a multi-year contract. But he's a steady left fielder who adds impressive contact ability to a lineup. The Phillies' batting order features plenty of pop, so Benintendi would provide an element of versatility.
Mitch Haniger is another Bryce Harper replacement candidate. Haniger could be seeking a 1-year contract following a down 2022 campaign. He is not a bad defender and is a talented right-handed presence in the lineup.
What happens when Bryce Harper returns?
Unfortunately, injuries happen all of the time in baseball. Having too much depth is never an issue. If the Phillies manage to stay healthy all season, they will need to make a decision when Bryce Harper returns as a DH in July. They could possibly look into making a trade, but a platoon may also be enforced.
Adding another outfielder would benefit Philadelphia to open the season without question. Their offense is already stacked, but adding another presence in the lineup would not hurt. Andrew Benintendi is the best fit overall for two reasons. First off, Marsh would be able to remain in centerfield with Benintendi in left. Additionally, his bat is a perfect fit for the lineup. They have a number of powerful right-handed hitters, so a left-handed contact bat is exactly what they need.
The Phillies are aiming to return to the World Series in 2023. This offseason will be crucial in determining how their season goes. But they need to find a way to supplant the absence of Bryce Harper through the first portion of the year.