Can Bryce Harper prove himself at first base and cement his Phillies legacy with a World Series?
Bryce Harper had quite the 2023 season. He made it back to the field in record time after his Tommy John surgery in the offseason, endured a career-long home run drought, started playing a new defensive position, and capped it all off with some incredibly dramatic and memorable postseason moments.
The one thing he didn't do was deliver a World Series to Philadelphia.
There's no doubt that Harper loves playing in Philadelphia, but the ultimate goal for the two-time MVP is to bring a World Series trophy to the city and fans he loves so much. Anything less during his tenure as a Phillie will be a huge disappointment for him and the fans.
Harper is five years into the 13-year, $330 million contract that brought him to Philadelphia. We can give him a pass for 2022 when he played with a bum elbow, and perhaps this season, after all the challenges he overcame to get back into game action.
But the former first-overall pick is now 31, and while there's still time for him to lead the team to the pinnacle of the sport, the window won't stay open forever. The gradual downhill slide out of his prime years is getting close. As incredible a ballplayer and as impressive a specimen as Harper is, the clock is ticking for him and the core group of stars that make up this formidable version of this Phillies team.
It's a trip to the World Series or bust in 2024.
The other question for Harper going into next season is: how good will the former outfielder be at first base now that he has picked his position?
He held his own in 36 games at first base this year. He committed one error and earned one Defensive Runs Saved with his play. Obviously, there are a lot of intricacies to playing first, but the Phillies don't seem concerned about Harper's ability to pick up the position.
"We think he'll develop into a Gold Glove first baseman," Dave Dombrowski told Jon Morosi at the GM Meetings.
Let's hope so.