A glance around the Phillies depth chart reveals, assuming the club’s power brokers actually want to contend in 2019, that a couple of important bench pieces may be missing.
Those two pieces would be a veteran infielder with proven ability at multiple positions, and a power bat who would be comfortable coming off the bench as a late-innings pinch-hitter while seeing limited opportunities otherwise.
The Phillies are reportedly looking into one such player. MLB insider Jon Heyman of Fancred sports tweeted out the following on Sunday afternoon:
Dodgers, Giants, Angels, Phillies and Rays are among teams in on Josh Harrison, a great and versatile defender
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 20, 2019
Harrison would fit perfectly into the role of a versatile and experienced infielder who could capably handle multiple positions. Now a free agent after spending the first eight seasons of his big-league career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Harrison has seen action at five different positions.
A native of Cincinnati, the now 31-years-old Harrison was the sixth-round pick of the Chicago Cubs in the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Cincinnati.
At the July 2009 non-waiver trade deadline, the Cubs shipped Harrison to the Pirates as part of a three-prospect package to acquire a pair of veteran left-handed pitchers, Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow.
Harrison broke into Major League Baseball with Pittsburgh in the 2011 season, and finally became a regular during a breakout 2014 campaign. That year, Harrison hit .315 with 58 extra-base hits, making his first NL All-Star team.
He also finished ninth in the NL MVP voting that year while playing multiple games at third base (72), right field (26), left field (26), second base (17), and even eight games at shortstop.
Harrison was an important piece on three straight playoff teams in Pittsburgh from 2013-15, so would also bring that valuable postseason experience to a Phillies team that is hoping to become regular contenders.
During a second NL All-Star campaign in the 2016 season, Harrison drilled a career-high 16 home runs. But long balls are not what the right-handed hitter is known for, or why the Phillies would bring him on board.
Harrison has retained versatility over the years, playing four positions well in both 2015 and 2017, while also starting all year as the Pirates regular second baseman in the 2016 season. Last year, Harrison again played mostly at the keystone, with 87 games at second base. He did step in for a pair of games at the hot corner as well.
The last couple of years his performance has been affected by injuries. He lost the final month of the season in 2017 due to a fractured fifth metacarpal in his left hand.
That exact same injury recurred in April of 2018 when he was hit on the hand by a pitch. The second injury to his hand caused him to miss six weeks. He then suffered a lingering hamstring problem that restricted Harrison to just seven games during September of last season.
There was a $10.5 million team option in Harrison’s contract for 2019 which the Pirates declined, choosing instead to pay him a $1 million buyout and making him a free agent for the first time.
With the Phillies, Harrison could become a backup at both second and third base. He could also slide out to a corner outfield spot if needed, and even handle shortstop in a tough-spot emergency.
Not the big fish that the Phillies and their fans are really hoping to land, Harrison would nonetheless bring something of value to the team. Now, would he be willing to accept the role? And how much would it cost to bring him on board? If he is willing to become a backup and the price is right, this would be a smart move for general manager Matt Klentak to consider.
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