Who were the Phillies’ biggest beneficiaries of the Bryce Harper trade?

Despite being involved in trade rumors majority of the offseason, Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco managed to somehow survive the roster overhaul the team has undergone so far this offseason. Oddly enough, the two may actually wind up being two of the biggest beneficiaries from the lineup additions-namely the additions of Jean Segura, J.T Realmuto, and Bryce Harper.

Last season, Franco and Herrera were tasked with being two of the primary power bats in the lineup and the team placed heavy expectations on them in regards to home runs and runs batted in. And, to be fair, the duo performed admirably relative to the power numbers the Phillies produced last season. Franco and Herrera finished third and fourth on the team in home runs, respectively, with the duo having flipped finishes in RBIs- Herrera ranking third and Franco right behind him at fourth.

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The problem is that their lofty team finishes were for a combined 44 HRs and 139 RBIs. While those numbers are nothing to scoff at, it’s certainly not the type of production you want from the hitters entrusted with driving your offense. To put their 2018 total of 44 HRs and 139 RBIs in perspective, Ryan Howard had four such 44+ HR and 139+ RBI seasons in his career- including three seasons where he surpassed 140 RBIs.

The Phillies desperately missed having that type of consistent force pacing the offense and knew that despite some early promise, Franco and Herrera simply weren’t that caliber of player. Now, with Realmuto, Harper, and Hoskins driving the offense, the burden is lifted off the shoulders of Herrera and Franco and the duo is now free and positioned to contribute in a role they should have always been – wild cards.

Webster’s dictionary defines wild-card as being or including an unpredictable or unproven element. Oxford defines it as a person or thing whose influence is unpredictable or whose qualities are uncertain. These definitions perfectly describe the streaky enigmas that are Franco and Herrera.

Is Franco the dominant force at the plate he portrayed last July when he hit .330 with 7 HRs in 25 games? Or is he the home-run-or-bust prospect we saw in 2017? And is Herrera the all-star caliber player we saw in 2016 or the pedestrian batter we saw for long stretches over the course of last season. The answer, simply, is both.

Honestly, Franco and Herrera’s offensive inconsistency over the last few seasons has been exaggerated a bit because of the role they were placed in. They aren’t world-beating talents that are going to bat .280+ with pop every month, but they’ll at least reflect that caliber of player a few months out of the season, which is all the Phillies need them to do this season. Now, with the two presumably dropping in the lineup order, their expectations will shrink, thus increasing the value of what they produce.

Their combined effort of 44 HRs and 139 RBIs last season marked an abysmal performance from hitters tasked with being the catalysts of the offense, but an encore performance out of the 6 and 7 holes in the lineup to go along with the output of Realmuto, Hoskins, and Harper should make the Phillies offense a well-oiled machine as they mash their way to the postseason.

It may not be pretty at times, but Franco and Herrera are incredibly talented players and I’m glad the team managed to retain them both this offseason. After what I expect to be two of the most productive campaigns in their respective careers this upcoming season, I believe the Phillies will be too.

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