Bryce Harper is a master multitasker. In addition to getting himself ready for the 60-game sprint that will be the 2020 baseball season, he's offering advice to Phillies ownership and the front office.
A week after his voice echoed all over Citizens Bank Park with a call to sign teammate J.T. Realmuto to a contract extension, Harper took to Twitch on Thursday night and expressed his thoughts on how the Phillies should set up their starting pitching the second time through the rotation.
"If Spencer Howard isn't in our starting rotation by Game 6 in New York against the Yankees, there's a problem," Harper said. "That's all I'm saying."
Harper's comment came after Howard dazzled for a couple of innings in an intrasquad game Thursday night.
On Friday, Howard chuckled when he was asked about the $330 million man's vote of confidence.
"It's cool, man," Howard said. "Obviously, he's been one of the faces of baseball forever it seems like, and for him to be a Philadelphia Phillie for 13 years or however long, I think he's definitely looking out for younger guys coming up in the system and he's trying to integrate them into the whole Phillies organization so I think it's really cool."
Harper is all-in with the Phillies. He saw his former team, the Washington Nationals, win a World Series last year and he wants one. He wants good players around him. He told that to club officials when they were wooing him 18 months ago and he's doing it now, boldly laying it all out there for the public to see and hear.
Harper is so all-in that he's even aware of baseball's service-time rules. If the Phillies keep Howard off the active roster for the first week of the season, they would control him for an extra year before free agency. It's a common practice by baseball front offices. Players don't like it and are likely to push for changes in the system in the next collective bargaining agreement. But for now, it's part of the game. Heck, it even happened to Harper when he was a rookie with the Nationals in 2012.
Harper can rest assured that the Phillies know what they have in Howard. They know he's one of their best arms and they know he's ready to show what he can do in the majors.
But Phils management will likely protect that extra year of control and hold Howard back a week, thus delaying his potential free agency until after the 2026 season. There's been no official word from the club on the subject, but it just makes sense long-range and organizationally.
Howard, who turns 24 later this month, understands.
"It's part of (baseball)," he said. "There's not much that I can do about it other than take care of my work every day and try to get a little bit better and keep progressing, and what they choose to do is up to them."
Howard added that his mindset is to keep rolling with "everything I can control."
But he left no doubt that he believes he's ready for the majors.
"I'm ready for whatever they throw at me," he said.
Third baseman Alec Bohm, another top prospect, is in a similar boat as Howard. He's probably not as close to contributing in the majors as Howard but could at some point this season. The Phillies will likely wait to add him to the active roster to preserve an extra year of control.
"There's no hard feelings about it," Bohm said. "It is what it is. That's a thing they can do. That's a smart business move. I'm not going to hold any grudge over it or raise a stink about it. It's part of the game. Everybody's gone through it."
Bohm now shares an agent with Harper, having signed on with Scott Boras in April. Boras, baseball's most high-powered agent, has quite a stable of Phillies with Harper, Rhys Hoskins, Jake Arrieta, Vince Velasquez, Nick Williams and Bryson Stott. Bohm said his move to Boras was a family decision, but he admitted that he did consult with some of Boras' Phillies clients before making the move. He had previously been represented by the Wasserman group.
Harper and Bohm built a relationship in spring training. Harper makes it a point to bond with young prospects, his future teammates.
"You get that feeling that he knows he's going to be here for a while and he knows how important it is for the guys — not just me and Spencer — but everybody coming up through the organization," Bohm said. "For us to have success within the organization we're not just going out and spending money on guys. He's been really welcoming and lending a helping hand whenever he can. He's welcomed us just as everybody else has."
When Howard joins the Phillies, he will immediately be able to pitch multiple innings, either out of the bullpen or in the rotation. The Phillies will need multi-inning relievers throughout the first few weeks of the season as the starters build innings and endurance. Howard could be one of those multi-inning piggyback relievers before getting a look in the rotation. That's where his future is.
It remains to be seen whether Bohm's future is at his natural position of third base or over at first base. Hoskins will have something to say about that. He struggled mightily in the second half last season. More struggles this season could lead the Phillies to give Bohm a look at first. If Hoskins surges and locks down first base, Bohm could get some reps later this season as the designated hitter. Third baseman Jean Segura is signed through 2022, but it's not out of the question that he could go back to shortstop next season as Didi Gregorius will become a free agent after this season. That would open third base for Bohm.
These things have a way of working themselves out. For the moment, here's what we need to know: Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm are very talented. They will likely help the Phillies in 2020. It just might not happen the first week of the season.