Could Bryce Harper shockingly solve the First Base conundrum in Philadelphia?

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Bryce harper
Bryce Harper celebrates after hitting a solo homer against the Gwinnett Stripers in the first inning while he begins his rebab assignment at Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs in Allentown, Pa., Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022. (Steven M. Falk/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

In a seemingly conventional post to social media today, the Philadelphia Phillies showed team MVP Bryce Harper getting some reps in at Citizens Bank Park. While the post was meant to garner hype over Harper’s recovery, it may have also unveiled a potential angle the Phillies may take in his return to play:

Notice what kind of glove he has on in photo three? A first base mitt. That’s right.

But why take your star right fielder and designated hitter and throw him at first?

Bryce Harper could fill a Need on an aspiring playoff team

The Phillies’ Plan A and Plan B at first base are currently on the injured list. Rhys Hoskins’ season is potentially over with a torn ACL. Not even two weeks later, Darick Hall went down with a thumb injury. Now, the Phillies are left with a makeshift platoon of Kody Clemens and moving Alec Bohm from third to first.

While there is nothing the Phillies could have done to prevent either injury from occurring, they are nonetheless in a tight spot now as they look to navigate first base on a team that is looking to return to the Postseason and, hopefully, the World Series.

Phillies Bryce Harper
Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryce Harper celebrates after his RBI double during the fifth inning in Game 4 of the baseball NL Championship Series between the San Diego Padres and the Phillies on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Meanwhile, Bryce Harper is recovering from Tommy John surgery and is inching closer to returning, at least in a batting capacity, daily. The Phillies chose not to put him on the 60-day Injured List to start the season, indicating that his return is likely by the end of May. Now, Harper’s UCL is far from fully recovered. It will likely take at least until the end of the summer that Harper returns to the outfield safely.

But what about first base? A position that takes very minimal arm strength. Harper could theoretically fill a need in the field while also adding his bat back into a lineup that desperately needs him back. Bryce Harper actually has a bit of a history with first base as well. There was talk about him potentially playing first base with the Yankees before he signed in Philly.

Bursting the first base bubble

While this is an interesting idea, however, let’s call it for what it is: not going to happen.

Bryce Harper, per Scott Boras in 2018, frequently takes ground balls at first base throughout the offseason. In other words, Harper always takes grounders at first base. This is not anything new. Harper is likely taking ground balls at first as a part of his recovery process. He is getting his glove and fielding reps in while not giving his throwing arm any undue stress.

Harper, additionally, will not be able to throw a ball at first. Now, I know that’s the Moneyball story with Scott Hatteberg, but let’s break the bubble: you need to be able to throw the ball, even at first base. While Harper’s UCL is recovering, the Phillies cannot add any unnecessary risk to the equation. The sole reason Harper is not getting game reps at DH right now is because he cannot slide yet without risking another tear to the UCL. As such, risking the chance of a potential tear to turn a double play or to toss the ball to the pitcher covering first is just not worth the risk.

We all want Bryce Harper back in the field, but first base just is not a good idea.

Steven M. Falk/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP