Since agreeing to take his talents to the Philadelphia Phillies following the 2018 season — a free agency period during which the Yankees had far too little interest — Bryce Harper has become a man possessed, picking up an MVP award for his historic dominance in 2021 (at the age of 28).
What has Harper’s stunning performance brought to Philadelphia? An under-.500 record, expenditures upon expenditures to attempt to surround Harper with similar boppers, and a continual ghost of a bullpen.
Now that JT Realmuto, Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber are locked into Philly long-term, there’s not much financial wiggle room for a team that still struggles to find an identity. This offseason, some thought “Incredible Offense, Solid Pitching, Porous Defense” would be enough to carry them to 90 wins and Wild Card contention.
Instead, the offense hasn’t been nearly electric enough across the board to prop up their record, and the still-leaky bullpen has led to a middling well-under-.500 mark and serious questions about Joe Girardi’s job security.
Girardi himself says he doesn’t care and doesn’t feel threatened, but he likely should begin worrying now if he hasn’t already.
Though it’s in the realm of pure fantasy, Philly’s recent tailspin has at least made us consider … are the Phillies in a worse place than the 2017 Marlins were when they cut bait on Giancarlo Stanton?
Yankees fans dreaming of a Phillies Bryce Harper trade
Those Marlins, fully stocked with young talent, finished Stanton’s MVP season in 2017 with a 77-85 record, but had less than no interest in keeping Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich as their free agencies approached, let alone investing in the Stanton contract through 2027. This left the Yankees free to swoop in and pick up the pieces.
The main difference here is Harper’s Phillies teammates aren’t low-paid kids approaching their first free agency cycles. Instead, they’re veterans who Philly’s front office has heaped cash onto in order to frame a haphazard contender around their slugger in right field. After already going all-out for All-Stars, why would Philadelphia want to leave their budget bloated for years, but without a centerpiece?
The other difference? The Yankees didn’t want to spend on Harper in 2018-19, and more than likely will immediately rule it out now with Aaron Judge still to pay. They got talked into Stanton once, and that has prevented them from doing anything similar in the 4.5 years since.
Still … the pipe dream of Harper mashing baseballs into the short porch remains the most enticing vision in baseball, especially with an outfield void (or two, if Judge leaves).
Adding Barry Bonds to the Bombers’ outfield picture sounds like something you, uh, do. By any means necessary.
Perhaps, in a dream world, Girardi going down with the ship can lead to a second mega-star outfielder trade, just as it did in 2017. Or maybe Schwarber’s shorter-term deal is something the Yankees can try to pry away?