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COLUMN: Bryce Harper can return to MVP form with Phillies



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Bryce Harper tosses his bats after batting practice for the Philadelphia Phillies. Tribune News Service

When the 2018 MLB season came to an end, ex-Washington Nationals star outfielder Bryce Harper watched the Boston Red Sox win their ninth World Series title from an all-too familiar position: as a spectator.

Since making his professional debut with the Nationals in 2012, Harper has emerged as one of the most coveted players in baseball. The 2012 National League Rookie of the Year and 2015 NL MVP brushed away all critics last season, hitting a career-high 100 RBIs to go along with his 34 home runs and league-leading 103 walks.

Yet the six-time All-Star found himself missing the playoffs for the third time since joining the Nationals. In the years they had made the playoffs with Harper, they failed to advance past the National League Division Series on four occasions. This lack of postseason success became a well-known frustration of the young star, who became increasingly vocal about it in the past few seasons.

This offseason presented a golden opportunity for Harper, who became a free agent at the conclusion of last season. In what seemed like a never-ending race to sign the star, the Philadelphia Phillies signed the future of its organization to a 13-year, $330 million deal, a contract that will keep Harper in Philadelphia until he is 38 years old.

Now, with a new city to call home for the next almost decade and one half, Harper has a chance to elevate his legacy. He explained a large part of the decision to head to another NL East team came from the team’s culture.

“I want to be part of this organization, I don’t want to go anywhere else,” Harper said of becoming a member of the Phillies. “I want to be part of this family, this Philly Nation.”

It seems Phillies owner John Middleton and general manager Matt Klentak pushed all the right buttons in their pitch to the young star. Finally in a system he can believe in, Harper has the opportunity to bring the Phillies back to the postseason for the first time since 2011. From the Phillies’ perspective, the signing means they can begin to build the future of the organization around him.

Harper has wasted no time laying out his vision for the next 13 years of his career either. Another one of the league’s biggest names, Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout, will be a free agent himself in the upcoming years.

“I know there’s another guy in about two years who comes up off the books,” said Harper. “We’ll see what happens with him.”

With the possibility of the two MVPs teaming up, along with a number of integral free agent signings this offseason, the future is bright in the City of Brotherly Love.

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