As Bryce Harper prepares for his fourth season with the Philadelphia Phillies, he’s not sure who will join him in the outfield, but he believes it will big a big name.
It increasingly appears that after re-signing Odúbel Herrera, that he and Matt Vierling will begin the season as a platoon in center field. Simon Muzziotti, Mickey Moniak and Adam Haseley are other center field options on the 40-man roster.
But there’s ultimately so few difference-making center fielders in the league. The Minnesota Twins re-signed Byron Buxton, long seen as a potential trade target of the Phillies. The asking price for either Bryan Reynolds or Cedric Mullins is likely sky-high. And even Kevin Kiermaier — who Matt Gelb of The Athletic reported that the Phillies had interest in earlier this offseason — sounds unlikely to to be moved by the Tampa Bay Rays now.
So if the Phillies want to make a major addition in the outfield, it seemingly will have to be in left field. And fortunately, the free-agent market is flush with difference-makers at the position, a fact that Harper seems well aware of.
“There’s a lot of players out there that are really good,” Harper said Monday morning, according to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. “You’ve got [Kyle] Schwarber, you’ve got Nicky [Castellanos], you’ve got KB [Kris Bryant]. You’ve got a lot of guys out there that could help this team win, that can lengthen our lineup. As you guys have seen, we’re trying to lengthen our bullpen the best that they can. I don’t think we’re done. I don’t think we’re going to settle for just that right now.”
While Jon Heyman of Audacy Sports reported last week that Harper was pushing the Phillies to sign Bryant, a fellow Las Vegas native, there’s yet to be a credible report suggesting that’s where the Phillies are focused. Nick Groke and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Monday afternoon that the Colorado Rockies are making a serious push for Bryant.
With no indication that the Phillies are a player for Japanese star Seiya Suzuki, Kyle Schwarber, Michael Conforto and Nick Castellanos may be the trio that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski ends up picking from.
Schwarber has been connected to the Phillies all offseason, considering new hitting coach Kevin Long helped him to revive his career last year with the Washington Nationals. Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia says that the Phillies “were deep into negotiations with Schwarber before the lockout.” However, signing the 29-year-old slugger is hardly a sure thing, with Rosenthal reporting this morning that the Toronto Blue Jays are “among the half-dozen or so clubs indicating strong interest” in Schwarber.
Meanwhile, the Phillies re-engaged with Nick Castellanos this past weekend, per Jon Morosi of MLB.com. The 30-year-old homered 30 times and drove in 100 runs this past season, but he also posted -7 defensive runs saved while playing right field for the Cincinnati Reds. Prior to the owner-imposed lockout, Castellanos was said to be seeking a deal of seven or eight years, which would be quite a commitment if the former Dombrowski draft selection’s asking price has yet to change.
Conforto is interesting because while he hasn’t really been a name that’s been discussed in regards to the Phillies, he’s a former All-Star that’s still only 29. He had a down contract year for the division-rival New York Mets, but posted an .875 OPS between 2019 and 2020.
As we noted at the outset of the offseason, the Phillies would have to surrender a second-round draft pick and $500,000 of international bonus pool money if they sign either Castellanos or Conforto, because both declined qualifying offers. That shouldn’t stop you from landing a player you are smitten with, but it’s definitely something to consider when options like Schwarber are still out there.
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