CLEARWATER, Fla. — John Middleton’s private jet is on the ground in Las Vegas, a person in that city told NBC Sports Philadelphia on Friday night.
Las Vegas is the hometown of free-agent slugger Bryce Harper.
It is just a meeting and no deal will be signed Friday night, a source tells NBC Sports Philadelphia. No other details were immediately available, but the Phillies have had ongoing discussions with Harper since first visiting with him and his agent, Scott Boras, in Las Vegas on January 12.
The Phillies went into this offseason hoping to sign one of the game’s top free agents. They hosted Manny Machado in Philadelphia in December, but he ended up signing a 10-year, $300-million contract with the San Diego Padres this week.
Machado’s signing with the Padres left Harper as the Phillies’ primary focus.
Several clubs in addition to the Phillies have pursued the slugging outfielder. One of those clubs is the Washington Nationals, the team Harper came up with. The Nats made news early Friday when owner Mark Lerner said in an interview that the club had “moved on” from Harper. A comment like that would lead one to believe that the Nationals have pulled out of the Harper sweepstakes. However, in the same interview, Lerner said the “door was always cracked a little bit.” So maybe the Nationals are not out of it.
Harper is clearly seeking to top Machado’s deal and probably the $325 million guarantee that Giancarlo Stanton got from the Marlins in a 13-year extension. Stanton is now with the Yankees.
The Padres pursued Harper before signing Machado. The Giants have expressed interest. There has been talk of a mystery team. While it is unclear how many teams are still in pursuit of Harper, it is clear where the Phillies stand — or in this case, where they are parked.
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