June 28: Harper indeed will undergo surgery, tweets Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. The Phillies are optimistic that he’ll be able to return this season and are expecting an approximate recovery time of six weeks, per the report.
June 27: Phillies star Bryce Harper fractured his left thumb on a hit-by-pitch Saturday night, a development that necessitated an immediate injured list stint. He’s undergone further testing over the past two days to determine the next steps in his treatment, and it seems as if the reigning NL MVP is likely to go under the knife.
Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Harper “is expected to need surgery” to repair the fracture. That procedure wouldn’t necessarily end his season, but Lauber indicates it’d cost him at least two months. Even in the (seemingly unlikely) scenario where Harper avoids surgery, he’s looking at a four-to-six week absence at minimum, per the Inquirer.
On the one hand, it’s encouraging to hear that Harper anticipates making a return this season even if he does need to undergo a procedure. Yet the development that he’s likely headed for surgery that’ll cost him eight-plus weeks is obviously a brutal blow for a Philadelphia club that hasn’t staked a strong claim to a playoff spot to this point. The Phils enter play Monday owning a 39-35 record, placing them a game and a half back of the Cardinals for the final National League Wild Card spot (with the Giants also sitting a game above them).
That solid but not excellent showing has been in spite of another stellar year from Harper. He’s hitting .318/.385/.599 with 15 home runs through 275 plate appearances, offense that checks in 66 percentage points above the league average by measure of wRC+. That’s not far off the 170 mark from last season that resulted in his second career MVP. Playing through a UCL tear in his throwing elbow has relegated Harper to designated hitter for much of the season, but he’s remained one of the sport’s most productive offensive players.
Offseason signees Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber will split time between one corner outfield spot and DH while Harper’s out of action. The Phils recalled Mickey Moniak over the weekend to join Odúbel Herrera and Matt Vierling as other options for interim skipper Rob Thomson. Philadelphia grabbed Oscar Mercado off waivers from the Guardians this afternoon to add a center field-capable depth player to the mix. Mercado has followed up a solid 2019 rookie showing with a trio of subpar seasons at the plate that eventually squeezed him off Cleveland’s roster.
Claiming Mercado certainly won’t preclude the Phils from further addressing the outfield over the next five-plus weeks. Center field was likely to be a target area even before Harper’s injury, and probably losing the star slugger through the end of August only figures to increase the club’s urgency for other upgrades. Andrew Benintendi, Anthony Santander, Michael A. Taylor, David Peralta, Tommy Pham and, if the Mariners don’t right the ship in the coming weeks, Mitch Haniger, are among the host of outfielders who could be available at the deadline.