Philadelphia Phillies' president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski broke news that many have been waiting for on Wednesday evening. Bryce Harper will continue to play first base for the club in 2024.
After the Phillies' season ended in disappointing fashion, the club held a press conference, and one of the main points of the event was whether Harper would be playing first base next season. Dombrowski stated that he would speak to his former MVP and make a decision. Well, it seems that the decision has been made.
The first base position heading into the new season was critical to the club's plans to address offseason needs. If Harper moved back to the outfield, it may have made sense to bring long-time Phillies' first baseman Rhys Hoskins back on a contract extension. It would appear now that Hoskins' days in Philadelphia are over.
Harper fared well at the position in 2023 for never having played first base professionally. He made his debut at the corner infield spot on July 21. Over the course of the rest of the season, the 31-year-old played 36 games at first base. While there were times in which his footwork or decision-making may have been questionable, Harper handled the new position better than many expected. He finished the season with one defensive run saved. For reference, Hoskins had the same number of runs saved over 151 games played at first base in 2022.
It's too soon to say if Harper will be a good defensive first baseman, but he has the athleticism, the drive, and the metrics to suggest that he has the potential. The move also allows Kyle Schwarber to remain the club's designated hitter.
How does the move affect the Phillies this offseason?
The most pressing reason to make this decision was so that the Phillies could plan how to enter the offseason. Now that first base has all but been decided, the club can focus on other areas to improve.
With Harper playing the infield and Hoskins likely gone, the club will not have to spend money to bring in a first baseman. That money can now be allocated elsewhere — free agent signings or trades. The club already added two relievers this week in Josh Fleming and Michael Mercado.
Re-signing Aaron Nola is considered another priority, but if he doesn't sign, the club could use that money to bring in another top-tier starting pitcher. They will not likely go after someone more expensive than Nola. This allows flexibility to bring in a right-handed bat to replace what they lose in Hoskins. An outfielder could be a possibility in this case, given the struggles of Johan Rojas against postseason pitching.
While the choice not to re-sign Hoskins may disappoint, using Harper at first base is in the club's best interest. They get a more athletic player at the position and don't need to take on another big contract to fill the spot.
All the best to the second-longest tenured Phillies player, but the club must look toward improving in 2024.