Bryce Harper Signs with the Phillies

After a long, drawn out off-season, Bryce Harper has finally signed.  It’s a doozy of a deal at 13 years, $330 million total.  After much speculation that the Dodgers were on their heels ready to pounce, it turns out the Phillies were able to get a deal done.

I’m split on how to feel about this as a Braves fan.  Bryce Harper is definitely a very good player, and the Phillies have improved more than any team in Baseball this season.  I was hoping Harper would go out to the West Coast or the AL to avoid him.  While I’m not as down on Alex Anthopoulos as some are, I’m a little annoyed that the Braves haven’t done more after dramatically increasing revenue in consecutive years and being told we would be able to shop in any aisle this off-season.  The one big splash they made was at what I would assess as their 4th biggest position of need entering the off-season (OF, Starting P, and Relief P rank higher than 3B).  While there’s still a chance the Braves go out and get Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel, it appears the Braves still let themselves get outgunned by every both the Phillies and Mets when there was absolutely no reason to let that happen as reigning Division Champions.

On the other hand, it’s important to keep things in perspective.  While it’s only 1 year, a healthy Josh Donaldson is probably going to play better than Bryce Harper.  And while it’s only a 1 year deal, a 1 year deal is better than a 13 year deal.  The Phillies are going to be around half-way through this deal just as Acuna, Albies, Swanson, and whichever young Pitchers pan out are hitting their prime.  Most of these long-term deals have gone sour for the teams signing them well before the end of the contract, and I doubt this is an exception.  While the Phillies are big-market spenders, this contract will most likely limit their options for building their roster going forward.  Those are all hopeful points for Braves fans.

Harper is presumably going to be a short-term boon to the Phillies.  That roster is stacked and will be difficult to compete with.  At the same time, the Braves will still be able to compete, and having the Phillies stuck with this contract for years to come could eventually be helpful.  That said, it would still be prudent for the Braves to shore up their Pitching depth before the season starts in order to be in a position to improve on their impressive season last year and make a deeper run in October.

J.T. Realmuto goes to the Phillies

Politics has gotten stupid this week, so we’re going to talk some more about Baseball.  The Marlins are currently trying to become as bad/low-cost as possible, so one of the major story lines has been if they will trade JT Realmuto.  I’m not sure Realmuto is one of the best players in the game (which seems like where the Marlins had him valued most of the off-season), but he is one of the best Catchers in the game in a Catcher drought.

I think my basic take is this: I’m glad the Braves didn’t trade for him, but I’m disappointed the Phillies ended up with him.  The Marlins initial asking price initially included Ozzie Albies, which is obscene.  I saw some speculation that the Marlins were trying to make-up for undervaluing Giancarlo Stanton last year, and I’m glad AA didn’t fall for that.  Supposedly the Braves later said no to Ian Anderson and Austin Riley once the price came down later.  I have no problem with that, as they are both high-ceiling players who I wouldn’t want to play on a division rival down the road.

At the same time, the Phillies continue to improve, and you have to think they’re probably still going to add either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.  That line-up is going to be tough to knock off this season.  I don’t know what AA still has up his sleeves.  Maybe Craig Kimbrel is still in play if the price settles down. Maybe there’s another move to improve the pitching staff or bullpen we don’t know about yet (Madison Bumgarner? Corey Kluber?).  I’m glad the Braves didn’t overpay to get Realmuto, but it still feels like unless everything happens to fall together perfectly with this line-up, they still have some moves to make if they’re going to repeat as Division Champions in 2019.

So, what would this current line-up need to repeat as is? It probably involves at least most of:

  • Dansby Swanson would need to hit better or risk Camargo taking over SS.
  • Ozzie Albies would need to improve his R/L splits.
  • Nick Markakis looks like his early 2018 instead of basically the rest of his tenure in Atlanta.
  • Sean Newcomb needs to shake off his second-half stuggles from last year.
  • Find solid production at Spots 4 and 5 in the rotation between Julio Teheran and the young guys (Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Bryse Wilson, Luiz Gohara, etc.
  • More overall productivity out of the bullpen.

Is all of that possible.  I think so, since all of those players except Markakis and Teheran are young and conceivably have room for development.  Is it reasonable to assume all of these things will happen though?  I obviously don’t know what to expect from these players, but that seems like a very uncertain notion.  I would guess AA thinks more teams will be sellers at a better price once we’re in the season and thinks this team can wait until then, and that seems like a fair guess.