So… What is Next for the Harper-Less Phillies?

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Photo: Ian D'Andrea/Wikimedia Commons/Fair Use

As Bryce Harper is set to miss significant time with a broken thumb, the Phillies will lose not only their best bat but the heart and soul of their lineup.

When it comes to what is next for Harper, there just isn't a lot for any of us to say. He will get his surgery and is hopeful for a speedy recovery but for the Phillies, there are not just season-altering effects but potential changes in how the front office will run the trade deadline and much more. 

What is next for the Phillies? What is the immediate future? What may the deadline look like? How much does Harper's this injury and the timing change everything? 

Immediate Future?

The Phillies are set to play a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves, sitting only two games back from the third wildcard and eight games out of the division-leading New York Mets. 

Winning the division seems highly unlikely at this point Harper or not but making the playoffs shouldn't be looked at that way. There are still 88 games left to play so calling the season over already is ridiculous. No one will say their chances of making the playoffs don't change but to say they are out might be foolish. 

The Phillies' next handful of series are three against the Braves, three against the Cardinals, three against the Nationals, and three more against the Cardinals. two against Toronto, and finally three against the Marlins. Outside of Toronto, these are all winnable series and the Phillies are at home for the Braves series with Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola projected to start. 

Toronto is clearly the best team they will and plenty of other factors will play into that road series but the rest is not nearly as difficult. The Cardinals are good but not great and probably benefit a lot from their division, the Nationals are one of the worst teams in the sport, and the Marlins season is likely over. 

The issue with the Phillies' offense without Harper is lineup depth. Rhys Hoskins has a .961 OPS in June and Kyle Schwarber has a better 1.068 OPS but expecting either to continue is a little unrealistic. 

The three players who must step up in Harper's absence are Nick Castellanos, JT Realmuto, and Odúbel Herrera. Castellanos was paid 20 million a season to hit and simply hasn't with an OPS under .700, which was unimaginable when he signed. 

JT Realmuto is probably the most underrated player on the team right now but his offense hasn't been good enough, he finally started to show some real power against the Padres but needs to start hitting like in years past. 

Herrera is hot and cold, and the cold streak has lasted close to the entire month with a .554 OPS this June. He won't platoon as much with Matt Vierling now and needs to start producing with a more significant role in the lineup. 

If these three start to perform like they are capable of then the Phillies will easily survive but those are questions that need to be answered. 

The Trade Deadline?

Some of you may be yelling for them to sell but that is unrealistic. The lineup should still have plenty of talent and they still have a really good starting rotation. They're 18-6 in June and once again are only two games out of the wildcard. Selling is not an option. 

They went over the Competitive Balance Tax this off-season as well so giving up just doesn't make any sense. Their approach, however, may change at the deadline. Jim Salisbury is reporting there is optimism he will play after a six-week recovery.  Hard to say how realistic or unrealistic that is but a six to eight-week window makes getting a corner outfielder tricky, Harper will play of course when he returns so making a run at a corner bat might not be worth it. 

Everything else is still on the table, the bullpen needs help, they could use depth in the rotation, and maybe another infielder. They could also make a play for a big-name starter like Frankie Montas, who still has an extra year of control. 

Trading significant prospect capital for a rental becomes very unrealistic but trading that capital is still a realistic option. It's easier to imagine they decide to make a play to be better next season, sort of like the Kyle Gibson trade last deadline. 

It is tough to say how the trade deadline market will look but they should be active to improve the roster, just maybe with a slightly different approach. 

Long Term?

There is no great answer to this question without a clear Harper timeline so I'll just leave it at this. The Braves won the world series without Ronald Acuña Jr., the Padres are 45-30 without Fernando Tatis Jr, and the Mets currently don't have Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer. 

There are examples of teams surviving without their best player and all of these teams were counted out once their top players were hurt. That's the same scenario here, the Phillies still have a very talented roster that simply needs their talented players to step up. 

It is probably a good sign their immediate response when Harper got hurt was beating the Padres so we know they will fight. At the absolute least, that will be next.