Bryce Harper rumors: Superstar free agent will meet with Phillies; Nationals 'haven't closed the door'

The CBS Sports MLB collective expects Bryce Harper to be this winter's highest-paid free agent and for him to ink the largest contract in MLB history. We don't, however, know the tantalizing specifics -- how much he'll sign for and most especially with whom he'll sign. 

It would be a surprise if Harper signed quickly, so presumably there will be plenty of time for his market to develop. Also, offseason plans are fluid, and they can change in light of unexpected developments. All that said, in the early hours of the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas we got perhaps a bit of Harper clarity. First, the incumbent Washington Nationals ... 

The Nats reportedly made Harper a $300 million extension offer, which he of course passed on. This offseason, they've already signed Patrick Corbin to a nine-figure contract, signed Kurt Suzuki and traded for Yan Gomes. Given that Harper will almost certainly sign for more than $300 million, this would seem to put him out of the Nationals' reach. GM Mike Rizzo, however, says that's not the case. It's worth noting that owner Mark Lerner recently said Harper wouldn't return. Maybe that's a play for leverage, or maybe that's indicative that the Nats are moving on. Either way ... 

The Nationals and Harper/Scott Boras know each other very well, so let's not read too much into this. It's telling to an extent, yes, but probably not as telling as it would be if a team who didn't have a preexisting relationship with Harper weren't getting some Winter Meetings face time with him. 

And what of the New York Yankees? We broke down their onslaught of Monday rumors, and this was chief among them ... 

Those outfielders would be Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton (though he's a primary DH), Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Clint Frazier. That's indeed a crowded outfield, even with the DH spot. Harper's camp has previously indicated a willingness to play first base, and the Yankees could certainly use him there given Greg Bird's ongoing injury concerns and inconsistent production. Yes, there's Luke Voit, but do you pass on Harper in the hopes that Voit can sustain his 2018? Cashman, though, doesn't seem open to the idea of signing Harper to play first base. By extension, that means he's not presently open to the idea of signing Harper at all. Things can change, of course, but right now the Yankees don't look like serious suitors. 

Know who is a serious suitor? The Philadelphia Phillies ... 

Yes, the Phillies with their healthy resources and wide-open budget are expected to be players for Harper and Manny Machado. Thus far, they've been unable to persuade any name free agents to take their money, but they've got plenty of it to offer. Expect the Phils to aggressively go after Harper. 

This is of course a partial listing. Teams such as the Dodgers, White Sox, Cubs (claims of a tight budget notwithstanding), Cardinals (Paul Goldschmidt notwithstanding), Angels and a mystery team or three will likely find their way to the Harper derby, and there's plenty of time for all of that to take shape. 

CBS Sports Writer

Dayn Perry has been a baseball writer for CBS Sports since early 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for FOXSports.com and ESPN.com. He's the author of three books, the most recent being Reggie Jackson: The... Full Bio

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