SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Could it really be a two-team race for Bryce Harper?
In recent days, Giants officials have grown confident about the possibility that the Washington Nationals, the only team Harper has ever known, no longer were a factor. That's the case, NBC Sports Washington reported Friday.
"We've moved on," Nationals owner Mark Lerner told NBC Sports Washington. "As I said back then and we had to. There was no way we could wait around. Bryce, I'm sure will make his decision hopefully in the next few days, but we've filled out our roster and like I said, we wish him nothing but the best."
Throughout this lengthy process, many in the Giants organization have viewed the Nationals as the ultimate landing spot, assuming agent Scott Boras would take the best offer back to them at the end and ask them to top it. It now appears Harper's only shot to get more than Manny Machado's $300 million will be to sign with the Phillies.
Philadelphia still is the favorite, and in recent days, there have been reports that the sides have increased their dialogue. The Giants view the Phillies as the favorites, too, and they don't intend to do dollar-to-dollar with them.
But ... what if Harper just really does not want to play in Philadelphia, or land with an NL East rival. That's something the Giants have held on to, and they appear to be the last team standing if that's the case.
The Yankees, Cubs and Dodgers bowed out early, although you can never assume that Boras won't find a way to get one of them involved again. To that end, a Giants person pointed out this week that they had a good shot at Giancarlo Stanton before he made it known there were just four teams he wanted to play for, and he found his way to New York.
After missing out on Machado, the White Sox reportedly won't bid on Harper. It's just about impossible to see how the Padres could, given the fact they've had a $100 million payroll only once and have paid Machado and Eric Hosmer the past two offseasons. The Giants do not believe there's a Mystery Team out there.
The Giants met with Harper earlier this month and have been working to try and find a match. They have no intention of going over the $300 million mark, and that's still a significant hurdle. But so was the presence of the Nationals, and that hurdle has been removed.
Well, probably. As always in this Harper chase, there's a bit of of confusion.
"But there's always that, the door's cracked a little bit," Lerner told NBC Sports Washington. "I have no clue at this point what (Harper and Boras are) up to. We really haven't heard from them in a couple months."