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The Phillies season is now officially in jeopardy. In the fifth inning of Saturday night’s game in San Diego, Blake Snell hit Bryce Harper on the left hand with a 97mph fastball. Harper would leave the game for x-rays. A short while later, it was announced that Harper suffered a fractured thumb and would be out indefinitely. 

Harper was extremely upset following the pitch, hollering at Padres’ pitcher Blake Snell, telling him to “throw it over the plate.” Harper quickly accepted Snell’s apology, however.

Over his last 162 games, Harper has slashed .324/.420/.643, put up an OPS of 1.063, blasted 42 homers, roped 55 doubles, and totaled 99 extra-base hits. He has reached base an incredible 290 times, good for almost 1.8 times per game. To go along with that, he has stolen 17 bags. 

It’s a brutal injury for a guy that has been on an absolute tear for the last two seasons. 

What does this mean for a team that has been awful without him since he signed in Philadelphia? For one thing, they need another outfielder. Mickey Moniak is being recalled and the Phillies are hopeful he can arrive in San Diego before the game on Sunday. It also means that they absolutely need guys like JT Realmuto and Nick Castellanos to get hot at the plate and carry the team. 

It also means that Rhys Hoskins has to find a way to stay on the field after finishing the last two years on the IL. The same goes for just about everyone else on the team. The guys that are making the big bucks must earn them now. 

Harper has been through so much over the last two years and has dominated the adversity that he’s faced. After getting hit in the face last year, he responded by winning the NL MVP. After finding out he’d likely need Tommy John surgery this offseason, he responded by moving to DH and putting up unreal numbers that should still hopefully land him in the All-Star Game. 

For Bryce Harper, now is the perfect time to get everything fixed. He should shut it down for the season. The Phillies have shown no indication of being a threat in the National League without him. Nick Castellanos, JT Realmuto, and Rhys Hoskins have all been below-average for the majority of this season. Kyle Schwarber is really good in June, but what is going to happen in a week when the calendar says July? Will the starting pitching be able to make up for a (yet again) terrible bullpen?

With the production the Phillies got from Harper, there was a chance they could sneak into the playoffs if others in the lineup got hot. With the production they’ve gotten from their big names, it’s not a realistic possibility anymore. Not to mention, they will still be without Jean Segura until mid-August at the earliest. 

No matter how hard they try, they can’t replace his production. No matter who they think they can trade for at the deadline, it’ll only increase the bust factor on a team that was already a huge boom or bust team. The best thing the Phillies can do right now is give Moniak a starting spot in the outfield, either right or center, and let him figure it out on his own for the next two months. As bad as this is for the franchise, it’s a great opportunity for them to see what they have in him by giving him an extended look. It’s also a great opportunity for Moniak to cement himself as a big-league regular. 

Looking ahead to 2023, there will be a lot more questions. Hopefully, Harper will be back to 100% or close to it from the elbow issue. Kyle Gibson and Zach Eflin are both going to be free agents this offseason. Rhys Hoskins is going to be looking for a raise this winter as well. Realmuto’s decline this season combined with the salary and term on his contract are issues. 

The injury to Harper really messes up the Phillies for the rest of this season. The outlook for the organization that has invested so much money into signing older players (Schwarber, Castellanos, Wheeler, Realmuto, Didi Gregorius) may start to haunt them soon. It’s one thing to sign a big-ticket free agent like Bryce Harper and try to build around him with young players that can grow together. It’s another to sign veterans that are at or nearing 30 years of age who are looking for big paydays and long commitments. It shrinks your window of contending by a handful of years and in the late years of those deals, things can get really ugly. We saw it with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley not being the same after their injuries. When Jimmy Rollins dealt with lower-body issues, his speed was never the same. 

The bottom line is this: The Phillies weren’t good enough developing young players (or they traded them) and to fix those issues, they signed or traded for veterans who likely won’t age well. Combine this with the injury to Harper, it could be a long summer and an even longer winter.

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