Why the Phillies let Rhys Hoskins walk just became obvious in bittersweet way

The Philadelphia Phillies let Rhys Hoskins walk this winter for a reason, and that reason is Bryce Harper.

Philadelphia Phillies v Houston Astros
Philadelphia Phillies v Houston Astros / Logan Riely/GettyImages

Bryce Harper is signed through 2031, when he will be 39 years old. Odds are, he will retire a member of the Philadelphia Phillies barring a relatively surprising trade late in his career.

Harper has become a fan favorite in the city of brotherly love, and he's performed like one. In back-to-back seasons, Harper headlined Phillies playoff runs, taking his team to the World Series in 2022 and NLCS in 2023. Red October is the ultimate goal for Philadelphia baseball fans every season, and the team is on the game page.

That is why Harper let the front office know he's willing to do whatever it takes to make this Phillies team better. As it turns out, that could mean staying at first base for as long as they'll have him.

“I don’t think I’ll move back out to right,” Harper said Sunday morning, per The Athletic. “I don’t. But never say never.”

Phillies: Bryce Harper's first base position switch could be permanent

At this point in his career, Harper's defensive metrics look far better at first base than they do in the outfield. Harper also puts himself at increased injury risk in the outfield, as well. At first base, Harper can use his rapidly-improving infield range to make plays he'd otherwise struggle to do in the outfield.

“I wanted them to know that I was on board with anything they wanted to do,” Harper reiterated. “If that was right field, if that was first base — and I told them that. I said if you want me in right field, I’ll play right. If you want me at first, I’ll play first base."

Harper's willingness to play first base, and his surprisingly-quick acclimation to the new position, likely played a role in the Phillies willingness to part ways with Rhys Hoskins this offseason. Hoskins was coming off a season-ending knee injury and signed a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Harper has spent much of spring training working with infield coach Bobby Dickerson, and the returns have been impressive early. He wants to play into his 40's, ideally in a Phillies jersey, and is open to extension talks. However, there are no opt-outs in his deal, so the Phillies don't have any reason to initiate those discussions.

First base is a position Harper can age gracefully in, and provides him the best opportunity to achieve that goal. Unfortunately that came at the expense of Hoskins.