Phillies Got it Right: Putting the Decision on Harper Was Wrong
When the season ended, Phillies manager Rob Thomson addressed first base and the future of Phillies super star Bryce Harper. Thomson said that the Phillies would have a "heart-to-heart" with Harper, and find out where he wanted to play. Big mistake.
Now in the offseason, Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told reporters at the Fall GM meetings that it's settled: Bryce Harper will play first base in 2024. Dombrowski relayed that Harper's only request was that they "do what was best for the team." Such a response should be expected from team player Harper. And that allowed the Phillies to right a wrong.
It was unfair to put the future of popular Phillies player, team union rep, and fan-favorite Rhys Hoskins all in Harper's hands. If Harper had said that he preferred first base, it would be perceived as a slight to Hoskins.
Similarly, if Harper had said, "I'd really like to go back to the outfield," it might create unrealistic expectations that Hoskins would return to first base.
Harper's response was easily predicable to anyone who has watched him play in Philadelphia.
But the Phillies coming out and making a declaration spares Harper of the responsibility either way. It was never fair to put it in his lap. While it might be a buzzkill to those who fell in love with the Rhys Hoskins that gave the City of Philadelphia so much since he forced his way into the roster out of and into left field in 2017.
The proper baseball move likely acknowledges that both Kyle Schwarber and Hoskins cannot co-exist on any major league roster. True, one bats right-handed and one bats left-handed. But as we saw with the injury to Harper, whoever is the designated hitter will have to play the field some of the time.
Having Schwarber and Hoskins in the field at the same time would not be good.
Should the Phillies add a right-handed bat that can play a solid outfield much of the time is probably what the Phillies would benefit from best. That was what the Phillies were lacking in the playoffs, as rookie Johan Rojas was a bit overexposed at the plate.
So the Phillies will move forward with what is probably the best baseball move. Who the Phillies will add to the offensive side of the roster is currently unknown. But after the team's frequent struggles in the field, it's a good idea to move on from Hoskins, despite the sentimental desire to keep him around.
Hoskins will be fine; he will probably find a team that is in need of someone who is primarily a designated hitter in a location he wants to play (San Francisco would be a nice fit for both).
But beyond making the right move, this decision shouldn't be tied to Bryce Harper. Harper said the right thing: that he would do whatever is best for the team. The Phillies also did the right thing: they came out and let people know that Harper said that, and the upcoming decisions would be theirs.