Bryce Harper’s 2023 debut timeline should add urgency to free agency push

Philadelphia Phillies star Bryce Harper is expected to get a late start to the season following Tommy John’s surgery, which should push free agency signings.

The Philadelphia Phillies excelled all the way to the World Series in 2022 with a highly powerful lineup, and Bryce Harper was one of the players to thank most for that. Their 2023, however, may not start off nearly as well because Harper is expected to miss the first half of the season, up until the All-Star break, due to Tommy John surgery.

This could definitely throw a wrench in their success as they look to continue their chances of being contenders next season, and it should push them to make some free agency signings this offseason while they can.

They have been linked to some major stars on the market, particularly all four shortstops: Xander Bogaerts, Dansby Swanson, Carlos Correa and Trea Turner. They’re reportedly most interested in signing Turner, which could certainly help some of the defensive issues the team faced throughout the season.

While it is important they continue to focus on improving their defense as it’s their main problem, they shouldn’t undermine the importance of finding a solid backup for Harper in the lineup.

The Phillies could face offensive issues without Bryce Harper

Philadelphia’s offense is essentially what carried them so far in the postseason. They were able to make games feel like a home run derby, particularly in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves where the Phils scored six runs in the third inning alone.

Harper was one of the home run hitters, and he was also noticeably one of the best hitters in the lineup all season. In the postseason alone, he led the team in hits (22), doubles (7), RBIs (13), batting average (.349), on-base percentage (.414), slugging percentage (.746) and OPS (1.160).

He, unfortunately, missed chunks of the regular season with injuries, mainly serving as just a designated hitter in the early season with a UCL tear until he fractured his thumb and sat out roughly two months. However, when he could play, he played well. He slashed .286/.364/.514 for an OPS of .878 over 99 games.

Philadelphia still managed to pull more wins than losses without him, and they do have another power hitter, Kyle Schwarber, that can likely get the job done. However, with Harper out, it might become too much reliance on him, which could become unsustainable very quickly. If Schwarber gets injured too, there’s not much backup that’s proven to bring results that Schwarber and Harper have.

Though there are other talented hitters on the team, they aren’t as powerful or impactful, and homers are important because they’re unplayable balls.

If the Phillies want to be safe heading into next season, they should look to sign a free-agent slugger as a backup in addition to great defensive players.

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