7:00PM: Harper’s market is still “evolving,” as Heyman puts it in his latest tweet. The Phillies are still seen as the likeliest team to land Harper, though the outfielder has received several long-term deals with an average annual value of more than $30MM per season.
6:01PM: There is no deal yet, though according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (Twitter link), Harper “will ultimately receive” a larger contract than the ten-year, $300MM offer he received from the Nationals before free agency began.
1:15PM: As was the case a month ago, the Phillies are the favorites to sign free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets. But Harper’s market has “intensified,” according to Heyman, who unsurprisingly notes he’ll eventually sign a long-term contract.
Philadelphia met with Harper back on Jan. 10, though he and fellow free-agent superstar/Phillies target Manny Machado have shockingly remained on the market since then. Both the Giants and Padres have since joined the race for Harper, who, as of two weeks ago, had drawn interest from “at least” eight teams, Heyman reported. Only five suitors have been identified, though, with Harper’s career-long club – the Nationals – accompanying the Phillies, Giants, Padres and White Sox. The Yankees and Mets are two teams that can be ruled out, Andy Martino of SNY tweets.
Harper entered the offseason seeking a contract worth upward of $300MM – a figure that he could still match or exceed, despite his unexpectedly long stay on the market. And the Phillies are arguably in better position than anyone else to bid an extravagant amount for Harper, as they came into the winter expecting to spend “stupid” money, according to owner John Middleton. The big-market team has been aggressive in improving its roster to this point, having added J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson, but it’s not spending an eyebrow-raising sum on any of those players. Plus, despite those upgrades, the Phillies still aren’t in great shape in the outfield, with Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams, Roman Quinn and Aaron Altherr serving as their best options besides McCutchen. The 26-year-old Harper blows that group out of the water, needless to say, and his presence would significantly boost the Phillies’ chances of breaking their seven-season playoff drought in 2019.
Should Harper head to Philly, it would remove a prime suitor for Machado, as the club’s only willing to sign one of the two. Without the Phillies in the mix, Machado would seemingly be left to choose between the Padres and White Sox, who have courted him, though it’s possible a previous suitor such as the Yankees or a mystery team could involve themselves in the race to sign him.