A Phillies-Bryce Harper union could benefit from potential MLB rule changes

A Phillies-Bryce Harper union could benefit from potential MLB rule changes

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Phillies remained in full-steam-ahead pursuit of Bryce Harper on Sunday and they seem to be the favorite to land him. It is not clear which teams the Phillies might be competing with as this drama reaches an apex, but there are reports of other clubs still being in the mix.

There is a feeling around baseball that the Harper derby could reach the finish line sometime this week. Opening day arrives a month from Thursday and Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, are both smart enough to realize that the player will need to get into camp to get the necessary at-bats to be ready for the start of the season. Teams that have been chasing Harper are also ready for this thing to be over.

Throughout the offseason, Boras has been looking for a record-setting deal for his client. That probably means something more than the $325 million guarantee that Giancarlo Stanton got from the Miami Marlins in his 2014 contract extension.

It is not clear how high the Phillies will go in their bidding for Harper, but they are well aware of his goals. Managing partner John Middleton spent Friday night and part of Saturday meeting with Harper and Boras in the player’s hometown of Las Vegas. It has likely reached the point where the Phillies will make their best play for Harper or look to play with the team they have already assembled.

If the Phillies land Harper, they will have succeeded in putting together a deep lineup that should score runs. The lineup had already gotten better with the addition of Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto and Harper in the middle would add some serious thunder. He would come to town with 184 career homers. Only 11 players in the history of the game had more than that through their age-25 season. Harper turned 26 in October.

You’ve probably already doodled some potential Phillies lineups with Harper in it.

Here’s one to ponder:

2B Cesar Hernandez
SS Jean Segura
RF Bryce Harper
1B Rhys Hoskins
C J.T. Realmuto
LF Andrew McCutchen
3B Maikel Franco
CF Odubel Herrera

Other possible lineups will emerge as the spring goes on and some could include Roman Quinn in center field. Whatever the case, if Harper is here, he will bat in a spotlight place and play right field.

For now.

It’s no secret that Major League Baseball is considering a number of rule changes that could be implemented in coming seasons. 

Some of these rule changes would seem to benefit Harper and the Phillies if a marriage occurs.

Harper would come to Philadelphia on a long-term deal. Adding the designated hitter to the National League could help preserve his body and keep him productive late in the deal.

There is also talk of reducing, or eliminating altogether, infield shifts. (Ryan Howard votes yes.) According to Sports Illustrated, over the past three seasons, shifts tripled against Harper and cost him 51 points off his batting average on balls in play up the middle or pulled.

There is also talk that, to speed up the game, baseball will require a reliever to face at least three batters. Put enough right-handed sticks around Harper and the Phils could make opposing managers think twice about bringing in a lefty specialist against Harper.

Adding the DH and a three-batter minimum for relievers would further marginalize a manager’s impact on games, but it might help a Phillies team that includes Harper.

This is all stuff to think about down the road.

Right now, the Phillies are still trying to land Harper and it sure feels like this thing could reach the finish line one way or another this week.

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Scott Boras lays out reasons why MLB players shouldn't give owners a 'bailout'

Scott Boras lays out reasons why MLB players shouldn't give owners a 'bailout'

In an e-mail to his clients obtained by The Associated Press, agent Scott Boras urged his players (which includes Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins and other Phillies) to reject MLB's salary reduction proposal, citing debt financing as the reason franchises are facing financial issues during the coronavirus pandemic.

Boras wrote this:

"Remember, games cannot be played without you. Players should not agree to further pay cuts to bail out the owners. Let owners take some of their record revenues and profits from the past several years and pay you the prorated salaries you agreed to accept or let them borrow against the asset values they created from the use of those profits players generated.

"Owners are asking for more salary cuts to bail them out of the investment decisions they have made. If this was just about baseball, playing games would give the owners enough money to pay the players their full prorated salaries and run the baseball organization. The owners' current problem is a result of the money they borrowed when they purchased their franchises, renovated their stadiums or developed land around their ballparks. This type of financing is allowed and encouraged by MLB because it has resulted in significant franchise valuations.

“Owners now want players to take additional pay cuts to help them pay these loans. They want a bailout. They are not offering players a share of the stadiums, ballpark villages or the club itself, even though salary reductions would help owners pay for these valuable franchise assets. These billionaires want the money for free. No bank would do that. Banks demand loans be repaid with interest. Players should be entitled to the same respect.

"Make no mistake, owners have chosen to take on these loans because, in normal times, it is a smart financial decision. But, these unnecessary choices have now put them in a challenging spot. Players should stand strong because players are not the ones who advised owners to borrow money to purchase their franchises and players are not the ones who have benefited from the recent record revenues and profits.

"... Please share this concept with your teammates and fellow players when MLB request further concessions or deferral of salaries.”

Boras used Cubs ownership, the Ricketts family, to illustrate the point.

"Throughout this process, they will be able to claim that they never had any profits because those profits went to pay off their loans," Boras wrote. "However, the end result is that the Ricketts will own improved assets that significantly increases the value of the Cubs — value that is not shared with the players."

Boras' e-mail followed MLB's proposal to the players' association Tuesday of a sliding scale of prorated pay in 2020 in which the highest-paid players would receive the lowest percentage of their prorated salaries and the lowest-paid players would receive the highest percentage of their prorated salaries. In essence, Harper would receive a lower percentage of his $25.4 million AAV than Hoskins would receive from his $605,000 salary.

The players' association found the proposal insulting and is not interested in the sliding scale of pay. Max Scherzer, who is on the MLBPA's eight-man subcommittee, released this statement Wednesday night.

The Phillies are well stocked with Boras clients: Harper, Hoskins, Jake Arrieta, Alec Bohm, Bryson Stott, Vince Velasquez, Cole Irvin, Nick Williams. Boras also, as of this week, represents Rays lefty and former AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, whom Harper backed up recently after Snell commented on the pay dispute in a polarizing way.

Of course, not everyone agrees with Boras, as outlined in this NY Post piece and in this tweet by outspoken Reds right-hander Trevor Bauer.

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How to watch NBCSP's re-airs of Phillies' entire 2008 playoff run

How to watch NBCSP's re-airs of Phillies' entire 2008 playoff run

While MLB's pay dispute between owners and players rages on, we'll have some classic baseball for you to enjoy during the first three weeks of June.

Beginning this Monday, June 1, NBC Sports Philadelphia will re-air the Phillies' entire 2008 playoff run — all 14 games — along with two specials and a replay of the '08 parade.

Forever Philly: Cole Hamels is a half-hour, 1-on-1 interview with the '08 World Series MVP about the postseason that defined his career.

And World Champions: The Story of '08 Phillies is an expanded 90-minute documentary with bonus '08 footage and plenty of interviews with the key figures such as Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Charlie Manuel, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth and many more.

Throughout these three weeks, Jim Salisbury and I will also be looking back at different angles of each game in articles, videos and in each Phillies Talk podcast in June. We'll dig back into those big moments, but also the moments behind the scenes.

Here is the TV schedule. Each game will be re-aired at 7 p.m. Both parts of the famous multi-day World Series Game 5 will air on the same night.

NLDS vs. Brewers

Monday, June 1 — NLDS Game 1

Tuesday, June 2 — NLDS Game 2

Wednesday, June 3 — NLDS Game 3

Thursday, June 4 — NLDS Game 4

NLCS vs. Dodgers

Monday, June 8 — NLCS Game 1

Tuesday, June 9  — NLCS Game 2

Wednesday, June 10 — NLCS Game 3

Thursday, June 11 — NLCS Game 4

Friday, June 12 — NLCS Game 5

World Series vs. Rays

Monday, June 15 — WS Game 1

Tuesday, June 16 — WS Game 2

Wednesday, June 17 — WS Game 3

Thursday, June 18 — WS Game 4

Friday, June 19 — WS Game 5 (Parts 1 & 2)

Forever Philly: Cole Hamels

Monday, June 1 — 9:30 p.m. (Premiere)

Monday, June 1 — 10:30 p.m.

Monday, June 1 — 11:30 pm (NBCSP+)

Tuesday, June 2 — 11 a.m.

Monday, June 8 — 9:30 p.m.

World Champions: The Story of the ’08 Phillies

Sunday, June 21 — 7 p.m. (Premiere)

Sunday, June 21 — 8:30 p.m. (Replay)

Sunday, June 21 — 4 p.m. World Series Parade

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