Phils can't wait for Castellanos era: 'What a lineup we're about to have'

March 19th, 2022

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Bryce Harper woke up early Saturday morning to a bunch of text messages and a very pleasant greeting for roommate Bryson Stott.

“It’s a great day to be a Phillie,” Harper said.

Sources have told that the Phillies and slugging outfielder Nick Castellanos agreed late Friday night to a five-year, $100 million contract, pushing the organization over the Competitive Balance Tax for the first time in franchise history. Because most Phillies in camp get to bed early for early-morning workouts at BayCare Ballpark, many heard the news when they woke up. Rhys Hoskins and Zack Wheeler did. Didi Gregorius got all the way to the BayCare weight room and had begun his workout when he saw the news on TV. Aaron Nola learned of the news from Jeurys Familia, whose locker is next to Nola's.

“It seems like that’s how every conversation is starting so far today,” Hoskins said. “’Did you see? Did you see? Did you see?’”

“What an awesome experience we’re about to have this year with the lineup we’re about to have,” Harper said.

Harper said on Monday that he hoped the Phillies would sign Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber or Castellanos to fill their need for a big bat in left field. The Phillies and Schwarber agreed on Wednesday to a four-year, $79 million contract. Harper said that morning that he hoped the Phillies were not finished making moves.

But he said he never expected anything like this.

“Definitely didn’t really think that,” he said. “Just because Casty is one of the best guys on the market, so you just never know what’s going to happen.

“It’s incredible. I would never have thought that would have happened. But like I said, you have to have the faith in [president of baseball operations Dave] Dombrowski and [principal owner] John Middleton to do their job, to get the team that’s best going out there. What a lineup we’re about to have. I mean, it’s a special thing to be able to have guys at the top of our lineup and in the middle of our lineup, pretty well-rounded, just the length of our lineup is pretty impressive. It looks good on paper, but you still have to go out there and give it your best effort. Still go out there and work hard.”

Schwarber is expected to be in camp on Sunday. It is unclear when Castellanos will arrive, as he still needs to take his physical.

“It’s exciting,” Hoskins said. “It lengthens the lineup. I think it’s going to make everybody else in the lineup better, take pressure off guys. It’s going to be a 'pick your poison' type of thing for opposing pitchers.”

“This is what makes a team better,” Gregorius said. “You get better guys, big-name players. You saw what they did last year. To bring it over to this team? We can do a lot of damage.”

Wheeler, perhaps like many Phillies fans, started thinking about the many ways manager Joe Girardi could set his lineup.

“If you have a long lineup, it’s hard for a pitcher to get through it,” Wheeler said. “There’s no breaks. There’s a lot of options. It’s cool, right? Joe’s going to have a hard time doing it, and that’s a good problem to have. That’s the thing about the big leagues.”

Harper and Castellanos were roommates when they played together on a national team as teenagers, and they share an agent in Scott Boras. They know each other well and occasionally communicate in the offseason.

So perhaps that’s why Harper paused for a moment and chuckled when asked what kind of player Philadelphia is getting in Castellanos.

“I think Nicky's going to fit in with the city of Philadelphia really, really well,” Harper said. “He has that demeanor, he has that energy, that spark. He loves the game of baseball. He's a grinder. Only two times he's ever been on the [injured list] is with his broken thumbs. He plays every day. And he just loves the game. The thing about Nick is he brings that fire that you need, that passion, that energy. … He’s going to fit the mold really well. I think that's one of the reasons why I really wanted him here, because he was going to fit that mold, and we needed players like that.

“He's a guy that, when he's on your team, you really like him, and when you're playing against him, you're like, 'What is this guy?' You know what I'm saying? 'What's he about?' Not in a bad way, but like, 'What's he about?' He's definitely one of those guys, and I'm really excited to have him in our clubhouse.”

Harper isn’t alone.

“We’re excited,” Nola said. “I feel like Philadelphia is excited.”