Phillies are in a tricky spot with Justin Bour

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Phillies are in a tricky spot with Justin Bour

It feels safe to say that two of the four veteran bats the Phillies acquired in July and August — Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Bautista — will not be back next season.

Wilson Ramos is definitely worth bringing back, as long as the price makes sense and the Phils feel somewhat confident about his health. Ramos will have more than a few suitors because he's not just the best catcher on the free-agent market (assuming the Dodgers re-sign Yasmani Grandal), he's one of the best free-agent hitters at any position.

What about Justin Bour?

The Phillies are in an interesting situation with the 30-year-old first baseman. He's arbitration eligible this offseason for the second time after making $3.4 million last season. The expectation is he will be paid something in the vicinity of $5 million next season.

Would the Phillies pay $5 million to a first baseman off the bench?

Bour provided real value as a pinch-hitter in 2018, going 8 for 25 (.320) with a double, three homers and 11 RBI. He hit just .227 overall this past season, but from 2015 through 2017, his OPS was nearly 30 percent better than the league average. Bour hit .272/.344/.498 over that three-year span with an average of 21 homers in 109 games.

The 2019 Phillies would be a better team with Bour on the bench than without. He could play the Greg Dobbs role. 

The big difference, though, is that Dobbs never made more than $1.35 million here. And Dobbs could play both infield corners and both outfield corners. Bour cannot. He is a more one-dimensional player who can play one position. That is not a knock on him, just the reality. The dimension he brings is worthwhile because every team needs left-handed power off the bench.

The Phillies have three choices with Bour this offseason:

• Keep him for about $5 million

• Try to trade him

• Non-tender him

If the Phils non-tender him, Bour will be picked up quickly by another club. And while Bour does have value for the aforementioned reasons, there does not figure to be an expansive trade market for his services because other teams will be hesitant to pay that $5 million (unless they plan to start him at 1B). 

Plus, other teams know the situation the Phillies are in. They know they could just wait it out and try to sign Bour after the Phils non-tender him.

Acquiring Bour on Aug. 10 for minor-league lefty McKenzie Mills was a solid trade by the Phillies that turned out not to matter. He could make more of a difference for them over a full season in 2019, but it would require the Phils to pay more than usual for a bench bat. They have the money to do it, but based on the projected salary, Bour would probably be among the first to go if the Phillies spend a lot of money elsewhere.

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No jitters for Bryce Harper, just an RBI, a stolen base and a little 'glam'

No jitters for Bryce Harper, just an RBI, a stolen base and a little 'glam'

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Everybody's stomach is a little different.

So while Jake Arrieta had a few butterflies before his first start of the spring Tuesday, Bryce Harper's pulse barely quickened.

"Kind of the opposite," Harper said, comparing the feel of his spring debut to Arrieta's. "Spring training is kind of spring training. I don't want to get too high or anything like that. I just want to get out there, stay healthy and compete. When I get to opening day, there's your jitters."

Harper played five innings in right field. He came to the plate three times. He drove home a run with a sacrifice fly in his first at-bat and later walked and struck out. He also stole a base.

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, Harper was still a free agent, mulling offers from the Phillies, Giants and Dodgers. He chose the Phillies on the final day of February and camp exploded with excitement. Back in Philadelphia, the team sold 180,000 tickets within 48 hours of Harper's agreement with the team.

This year, things are a lot different for Harper. He has become a dad. And his hair is a lot longer.

"I'm going to keep it going," he said. "Yeah, keep it flowing. Why not? We'll see what happens."

Harper, of course, isn't the only one in camp with a new look. His pal, the Phanatic, unveiled his on Sunday.

"Hey, man, everybody needs a glam-up sometimes, you know?" Harper said. "Why not? I've got long hair right now. I'm always changing."

The general atmosphere around camp is also different than it was a year ago. Though there's a real sense of faith that the Phillies will improve under new manager Joe Girardi, there's none of the euphoric buzz that accompanied Harper's signing. The attendance for Tuesday's game against Toronto in Clearwater was just 4,004. It was a split-squad game for both teams.

Harper is OK with a calmer spring.

"It's definitely different coming into camp," he said. "It's good knowing I'll be here the next 12 years, a lot more calm, not as crazy, not as many cameras. I'll enjoy that and just get ready for the season."

Harper's spring goal:

"Just be healthy," he said. "Take good routes in the outfield, throw the ball well out there, have good at-bats."

Haseley in protocol

Centerfielder Adam Haseley left the game in Clearwater after hitting his face hard on the ground while attempting a diving catch. Haseley suffered a cut on his forehead, caused by his sunglasses. He was seen walking and talking in the clubhouse after the game but was unavailable for comment to reporters because he had been placed in concussion protocol. His condition will be updated on Wednesday.

The games

Arrieta gave up a single, a walk and a three-run homer in the first inning, but he enjoyed a quick second inning. He admitted to some nerves in the first inning but settled in after that. At this point of camp, all that matters with a starting pitcher is health and Arrieta feels good after having his elbow surgically cleaned out late last season.

The Phillies won the Clearwater game, 13-6, with the help of minor-leaguer Jhailyn Ortiz' grand slam. The Phillies signed Ortiz for $4 million as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in July 2015. He hit just .200 at Single A Clearwater last season but had 19 homers and 65 RBIs in 430 at-bats.

Catcher J.T. Realmuto gunned down a runner trying to steal second base from his knees.

In Bradenton, the Phils beat the Pirates, 6-2. Lefties Ranger Suarez and Damon Jones both pitched two scoreless innings. 

The victories left the Phillies at 4-0-1 in exhibition play.

Zach Eflin starts Wednesday against the Twins in Fort Myers.

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Phillies Talk podcast: Can Roman Quinn change complexion of Phillies' lineup?


Phillies Talk podcast: Can Roman Quinn change complexion of Phillies' lineup?

Joe Girardi is already impressed by Roman Quinn, who could significantly alter the Phillies' lineup if he can win the CF job. Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman discussed on Tuesday's Phillies Talk podcast.

• How Roman Quinn could change the complexion of the lineup.

• Can Andrew McCutchen be an effective leadoff man if the knee forces him to go station to station?

• How much a fast runner can mess with a pitcher's head.

• Phillies pitchers making clear (without saying it) what they thought of Chris Young and Gabe Kapler.

• Whose side are you on with the Phanatic lawsuit?

• Expectations for Scott Kingery in Year 3.

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