After a face-to-face meeting in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper, his agent Scott Boras and his wife Kayla on Saturday, the Philadelphia Phillies "remain optimistic" they will land either Harper or Manny Machado in this year's free agency, according to Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
I don’t expect the #Phillies to sign Bryce Harper tonight or even this weekend. But, I do expect them to end the offseason with either Harper or Manny Machado on the roster. Hard to imagine both players leaving money on the table to play elsewhere. This might test your patience.— Matt Breen (@matt_breen) January 13, 2019
To @matt_breen’s point, it’s helpful to remember that J.D. Martinez didn’t agree to a deal last year until Feb. 26. Machado and Harper can keep dragging this out to get their best deals. Like everything else in baseball, offseason doesn’t have a clock.https://t.co/CsOlzcPQpE— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) January 13, 2019
The Phillies contingent for Saturday's meeting included owner John Middleton, general manager Matt Klentak and manager Gabe Kapler. The meeting reportedly lasted for a few hours before the group flew back to Philadelphia.
Jeff Skversky of 6 ABC Philly spoke to both Middleton and Klentak after they landed back in the City of Brotherly Love. Middleton told Skversky that the meeting was "really positive," and that they "got to understand what [Bryce] would be like for the clubhouse and community."
Phillies owner John Middleton & GM Matt Klentak tell @6abc their meeting with Bryce Harper in Las Vegas went well— Jeff Skversky 6abc (@JeffSkversky) January 13, 2019
"How can you not be excited when you talk to a player like Bryce Harper... I think it was really positive"@6abc#MLB#Phillies#BryceHarper pic.twitter.com/OS1VkXlEit
Heading into the 2018-19 offseason, Middleton confirmed what baseball fans had long speculated: His team was ready to spend "and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it." The Phillies have already met with Machado face-to-face at Citizens Bank Park and are awaiting his decision.
In the meantime, the Phillies reportedly signed Machado's longtime mentor and former Baltimore Orioles third-base coach Bobby Dickerson. The move follows in the footsteps of another team in the Machado sweepstakes, the Chicago White Sox, signing Machado's long-time friend Jon Jay after trading for his brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso.
Last month, Phillies' officials met with Boras at the winter meetings in Las Vegas. But for the most part, Harper's market has been pretty foggy this offseason, even more so when the Nationals came back in the picture with a reportedly larger offer than their first of $300 million. But the market seems to be taking better shape now as we wrap up the second week of the calendar year. The Phillies are reportedly now the fourth team that Harper has spoken with directly; the others being the Nationals, White Sox and Dodgers.
It's notable that Middleton made the trip to Vegas because Boras bypassing general managers to get deals done with owners isn't something new. He managed deals for big-name clients like Prince Fielder and Max Scherzer the same way.
Reports have indicated the Dodgers do not want Harper on a long-term, record-setting contract, but they did complete a seven-player trade with the Reds that looked like they were clearing salary to make a real run at Harper. It's still unclear whether or not the Dodgers are really in or not on Harper. But with what we do know as of today, Harper may have to choose among the Phillies, White Sox and Nationals if he wants to land a record-setting contract.