Bryce Harper officially became a member of the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday, but the team’s road to success is still far from guaranteed.
The Philadelphia Phillies saved the best for last in fulfilling their promise to spend “stupid” money this offseason.
Bryce Harper, two days after agreeing to a 13-year, $330 million contract with the club, was introduced as the newest member of the Phillies at a press conference on Saturday at the team’s Spring Training home in Clearwater, Florida.
The move to sign the 26-year-old right fielder comes at the end of a busy offseason for General Manager Matt Klentak. The Phillies already added All-Stars like J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura to their roster. The addition of Harper gives them five All-Stars in their projected starting lineup, including two former MVPs. That doesn’t even include Rhys Hoskins, who led the club with 34 home runs and 96 RBIs last year. The pitching staff also includes three All-Stars in Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta and David Robertson.
Harper, donning a Phillies uniform for the first time and flanked by the two men who did the most to make it happen, Klentak and agent Scott Boras, admits the talent on the roster helped him decide to spend the rest of his career in Philadelphia. “I think the first thought was, ‘If I sign with the Phillies I don’t have to face Aaron Nola anymore,’” he said.
“This team is filled with perennial All-Stars that can be All-Stars every single year … You can go on and on about this team and how good it can be.”
The road to making the Phillies into World Series contenders, however, isn’t as simple as adding a few star players. Harper realizes it will take time for the pieces to fit together and make a winning team. He isn’t guaranteeing a World Series this year. In fact, he admits it’s still going to be tough to win the NL East.
“The thing about the East is it’s a juggernaut,” he said. “I’m not going to tell you that we’re going to come in this year and win a World Series or win the division or anything like that. We all want that to happen, that’s your goal when you walk into Spring Training. That’s the goal of the fans, that’s the goal of everybody. But good things take time as well.”
The Phillies’ competitors in the NL East didn’t stand still this offseason, either. The defending division champ Atlanta Braves have Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies, two players coming off breakthrough rookie seasons and who are only going to get better, and added former MVP Josh Donaldson. The Mets still have a loaded pitching staff with Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard while also adding Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz in a trade from Seattle. Harper’s former team, the Washington Nationals, has players ready to replace him in Victor Robles and Juan Soto.
The Phillies also have some of their own lingering doubts. Manager Gabe Kapler is only in his second season and presided over a late-season collapse in his first year, going from leading the division in August to finishing 10 games behind the Braves. It falls to him to form all these new pieces into one cohesive unit.
Harper keeps going back to one word, family, to describe what the Phillies have to become. “You got to mold as a team, you got to mold as an organization. Really understand the guys in the clubhouse,” he said. “Make that a family, every guy pulling on the same rope every single day.”
Harper is committing to that Phillies family until he’s 39 and says his legacy will be all about how many championships he brings to Philadelphia, not his personal statistics.
“I think you’re remembered for winning,” he said, “and what better place to do that than Philly?”
He has the next 13 years to fulfill that legacy.