Bryce Harper came to Philadelphia to do the one thing he didn’t accomplish in Washington: Win in October.
The Phillies gave him one of the biggest contracts in baseball history to deliver.
“I want to be on Broad Street and hold a (World Series) trophy over my head,” Harper said after signing a $330 million, 13-year contract.
The 26-year-old slugger was a six-time All-Star, 2012 NL Rookie of the Year and 2015 NL Most Valuable Player during seven seasons with the Nationals. But he couldn’t help Washington win a postseason series in four tries.
That won’t cut it in Philadelphia.
“We didn’t make this move to win 83 games,” owner John Middleton said.
The Phillies have had six straight losing seasons and haven’t reached the postseason since 2011. They were 80-82 last year, losing 33 of the final 49 games after leading the NL East in early August.
Expectations already were high after the team acquired All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto, two-time All-Star shortstop Jean Segura, 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen and reliever David Robertson. Adding Harper skyrocketed everyone’s hopes, especially fans who jumped on tickets and No. 3 jerseys.
“You’ll always be remembered for winning and what better place to do it than Philly,” Harper said.
He’ll make his debut in red pinstripes when the Phillies host the defending NL East champion Atlanta Braves on March 28.
Here’s some things to know about rebuilt Philadelphia:
NEW FACES: Harper is the new face of the franchise but he can’t do it alone. Realmuto is one of the best at his position and could raise his offensive production in a hitter-friendly ballpark. Segura solidifies an important spot and bolsters the lineup. McCutchen is determined to prove he’s not done yet. Robertson is a key part of a deep bullpen.
THE SKIPPER: Manager Gabe Kapler was heavily criticized and intensely scrutinized in his first season leading the team. He took plenty of heat for using a lot of pitchers, different lineups and some even had issues with his positive approach. The Phillies won the offseason and now it’s up to Kapler to help the team win games.
ACES WILD: Aaron Nola established himself as one of the best starters in the majors last year, finishing third in Cy Young Award voting. The right-hander, who takes the mound on opening day for the second straight season, anchors a questionable rotation. Jake Arrieta got paid to be an ace last year but pitched more like a No. 4-5 starter. His velocity has improved in spring training and he’s feeling better following offseason knee surgery. If Arrieta pitches like he did when he won the 2015 NL Cy Young Award with the Cubs, the Phillies could have a top 1-2 punch. They’ll need more from Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin or the offense will have to outslug opponents quite often.
DYNAMIC LINEUP: Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco are going from batting in the middle of the order to hitting in the lower third in Philadelphia’s revamped lineup. That’s how deep and balanced the new-look offense will be with Harper, Realmuto, Segura and McCutchen joining slugger Rhys Hoskins and Cesar Hernandez. Seven of the eight hitters have hit 20 homers in a season, including six of them in 2018 and Hernandez had a career-best 16 last year.
DEEP PEN: Robertson adds depth to a formidable group that includes Seranthony Dominguez, who emerged as the closer as a rookie last season. Former closer Hector Neris rebounded nicely late in the season after losing his job. Veterans Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter and newcomer Jose Alvarez make this a strong unit that could get the call often if the rotation falters.