Harper: Phillies are 'in striking distance'

July 21st, 2021

NEW YORK -- Everybody wants to see how the Phillies improve their team before the July 30 Trade Deadline.

is no exception. He is in the third year of a 13-year, $330 million contract, and he would love to see the Phillies take a run at the World Series in October. The Phillies entered Wednesday night’s series finale against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium just 2 1/2 games behind the Mets in the NL East. They have a 22.7 percent chance to make the postseason, according to FanGraphs. They had just an 8.1 percent chance on July 1.

“We’re in striking distance,” Harper said Tuesday. “We’re in a spot where we’re really going to realize where we are in the next 10 days, right? We have a big series with the Yankees, a big series with Atlanta, and the Nationals come in town. These next couple days could really determine where we’re at. But also with that, you never want to just say, ‘Hey, where are we? Could we have won a couple games here if we wouldn’t have waited?’”

In other words, the sooner the Phillies can make upgrades, the better. Because having those upgrade(s) for even a couple extra games could be the difference between making the postseason or not. Ask the Brewers. They made a rare early-season trade with the Rays on May 21 for shortstop Willy Adames. They have the best record in baseball (35-17) since then.

“We want to put that pressure on [the front office] to hopefully go out there and get the guys that we need to get, if that’s bullpen, if that’s positions,” Harper said. “As a team, I think we know where we can be. We know what kind of ball that we’re playing right now and how good we can be. … We’re playing like the team that we’re supposed to be playing like at the right time. We’re all getting back on the field at the right time. Guys are hitting well. We’re pitching. I think as a team, we’re where we need to be.”

The Phillies could use a lot of things before the Deadline, but they really need pitching. They need rotation help. They need bullpen help. They watched throw last Friday in Texas. It is unclear how seriously they will pursue him, but the advantage of signing somebody like Hamels is that he will not cost the Phillies prospects.

So, in theory, they could upgrade the rotation and use their prospect capital elsewhere.

“Everybody will look in our bullpen, right? That extra arm,” Harper said. “You always need pitching. You always need depth, too. Anytime you get pitching and that depth inside your organization -- if that's starting pitching, if that's the bullpen pitching -- not even just now during the Trade Deadline. You look at all the teams that are really good in baseball, they all have depth. Keep all your chips. Keep everybody, you know what I'm saying? All around our team, we can always be better. So anybody that we go out and get, hopefully, they come in here and make our team better and give us that attitude and that mindset to go out and compete.”

The Cubs have two big names available in closer and infielder/outfielder . Kimbrel makes the most sense for the Phillies. But if the Phillies fail to find the pitching they like, they could theoretically load up on offense.

Harper knows Bryant well. They are buddies from Las Vegas.

“You guys saw him in the postseason,” Harper said. “Every time he's in the postseason, he plays well. He's been there. He's been in the World Series. He's a great person. He has a great family. He comes to the yard ready to play. He's a big right-handed bat that can play multiple positions. He can play right. He can play center. He can play third. He can play anywhere. Any team that gets him, they're going to have a treat. Definitely.”

Will it be the Phillies? If not Bryant, then who? It will be somebody. Harper is just as eager as anybody to find out.