Harper talks contract, first base, Merrifield, Hoskins and more

By | February 20, 2024

Harper talks contract, first base, Merrifield, Hoskins and more originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Phillies position players trickled into camp over the weekend, including a guy named Bryce Harper, who spoke to reporters in Clearwater about a wide range of topics, including his contract, his position, his newest teammate, the departure of Rhys Hoskins and more. .

Contract negotiations

Harper and agent Scott Boras have made it clear that Harper is looking for a contract extension. Harper wants to play with the Phillies until he is 40. This will be his age-31 season and he has eight years left on the 13-year, $330 million contract he signed before 2019.

“Yes, I think there has been communication between me and (president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski) and also Scott and Dave,” Harper said. “Obviously I want to stay here for a long time and we’ll see what happens.

“I want to stay here for a long time and play until I’m 40. That’s the most important thing for me, so I wanted to make that happen.”

Harper’s $330 million contract was the largest total in MLB history when he signed it, but Mike Trout beat it by nearly $100 million less than a month later, and now Harper’s contract ranks eighth ranks all-time in total value behind Shohei Ohtani, Trout, Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge, Manny Machado (who earned more via an opt-out), Francisco Lindor and Fernando Tatis Jr.

In terms of annual average value, the salary number applied to the luxury tax, Harper’s $25.38 million ranks 46th all-time, fewer per year than guys like Xander Bogaerts, Kris Bryant and Bobby Witt Jr.

The Phillies’ most immediate concern is re-signing their top prospect Zack Wheeler, who will be eligible for free agency after the 2024 season.

“I understand there are other guys we have to take care of,” Harper said. “Understanding Wheels is a big challenge for us right now, but contract negotiations can take place all season long. We’ll see what Scott and Dave can come up with.”

Taking over first base

The Phillies charted their path early in the offseason when they determined Harper would play first base, making Hoskins more expendable.

After learning the position on the fly last season while rehabbing his surgically repaired elbow, Harper not only handled himself well at first base, but also played very well defensively. He believes he can only improve this position with more experience and full spring training in games and with infield coach Bobby Dickerson.

Harper doesn’t think he’ll return to right field.

“I don’t think I’m going to move to the right again, I won’t,” he said, “but never say never.

“I wanted them to know that I agreed with everything they wanted to do. If that was the right field, if that was first base, I told them that. I think as a collective they said that first base was the place is where we I want you and I to say, okay, I’ll do everything I can to be there and that’s what I want to do.”

Harper said he didn’t go into that meeting with Dombrowski leaning toward first base, that it was more of a group decision.

“Not really my preference,” he said. “At the same time we had a pretty good conversation, me and Dumbo. We sat down and he said this would be great for our organization and I said okay.”

Whit Merrifield joins the club

New Phillie Whit Merrifield was in camp Monday and will wear number 9. The Phillies agreed to a one-year contract with the three-time All-Star on Friday.

Merrifield led the majors in hits and stolen bases in 2018, led the majors in hits and triples in 2019 and led the American League in doubles and steals in 2021.

“Really excited about Whit,” Harper said. “We talked about two weeks ago, me and him, had a conversation about Philly and stuff like that. I think he’s really excited to be here, he’ll be great for us. He’s had such a great career, even when he was… younger in South Carolina, two-time national champion, he knows how to win, he’s a leader.

“He’s a bit of a veteran, 35 years old, so I think he’ll bring that to our clubhouse as well. We’re all looking forward to seeing him. He’s been in the Top 3 in terms of hits since 2017 and is just a very good player.” player at home in all markets. He’s going to be a gamer for us and I think Philadelphia should be very excited to get this guy.”

Saying goodbye to Rhys

The Phillies re-signed their longest-tenured pitcher, Aaron Nola, the week before Thanksgiving, but it was clear at the time that there was no room for their longest-tenured player, Hoskins. With Harper at first base and Kyle Schwarber as the designated hitter, the opportunities for Hoskins simply weren’t there unless the Phillies sacrificed defense for offense, which would also have meant less playing time for one or both of Brandon Marsh and Johan Rojas.

Hoskins moved on to the Brewers, a team that desperately needs his strength. If he stays healthy, he could lead his new club in home runs and RBI.

“It’s definitely tough to see him go, but career-wise I wish him the best,” Harper said. “We all want to see him do great things in Milwaukee and he deserves what he gets. We’re excited for him.”

“Any time you get a player like that, a franchise player that goes somewhere else, one of the guys that was loved in the clubhouse, loved in the community, he did so much for the city of Philadelphia. He and (wife) Jayme are too.” two great individuals.”

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