A season after playing with a depleted cast of reserves, the Phillies made a move Tuesday to strengthen their bench by signing two-time All Star utility player Josh Harrison to a minor-league contract.
Harrison, whose deal includes an invite to major-league spring training, provides versatility as he can play nearly every position. The 32-year-old was an All Star in 2014 and 2017 with Pittsburgh, but hit just .229 with .272 on-base percentage over the last two seasons.
Harrison never had a set position with Pittsburgh as he bounced around the infield and outfield, demonstrating the positional flexibility the Phillies value. Major-league rosters will expand to 26 players in 2020 and Harrison will have a good chance to secure one of the team’s five bench jobs out of camp.
The Phillies struggled last season to find a spark off the bench as they finished with the National League’s worst OPS in pinch-hit chances and the second-highest strikeout rate as pinch hitters. Five players -- Nick Williams, Phil Gosselin, Brad Miller, Andrew Knapp, and Sean Rodriguez -- had more than 30 pinch-hit opportunities and only Miller had an OPS over .700. The team’s bench options became even thinner after Odubel Herrera’s suspension and Andrew McCutchen’s injury pushed reserves into the starting lineup.
The Phillies entered the offseason knowing they had to improve their bench, and Harrison’s addition was the first move. They will hope that he can regain the form he had in Pittsburgh as Harrison hit .277 with a .317 on-base percentage over eight seasons before moving to Detroit last offseason on a one-year deal.
He strained his hamstring in May, battled a shoulder injury, and was released in August after playing just 36 games. Now, the former All Star tries to right his career with the Phillies, who begin rebuilding their bench with a no-risk move.