8:32pm: There is a meeting, Heyman tweets, but the matter of Harper’s destination has yet to be decided. Other teams are still involved at this point.
8:14pm: Private planes and visits to Las Vegas have featured prominently throughout the courtship of free agent outfielder Bryce Harper, and that’s true again tonight. Phillies owner John Middleton — or, at least, his jet — is currently gracing the tarmac in Harper’s hometown, a source tells Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philly (Twitter link).
“Team Bryce” (presumably, the player, his wife, his agent Scott Boras, and others) is also in Sin City at the moment, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports (Twitter link). That makes it easy to imagine a forthcoming late-night rendezvous between representatives of the open market’s most willing spender and its biggest star — though Heyman adds that Middleton appears to be on his own, without president Andy MacPhail or GM Matt Klentak.
Of course, we’ve yet to hear any specific indication that a meeting is in the works. At this stage of the proceedings, though, even the (seemingly strong) possibility warrants close attention. Harper, after all, took center stage when Manny Machado recently signed a ten-year, $300MM pact with the Padres. He was joined in the spotlight by the Phils, who came in third in the bidding for Machado after entering the winter with expectations of landing a superstar.
These sides have held an in-person pow-wow already, back in early January. That was perhaps more of a meet-and-great. It’s fair to wonder whether a repeat visit is designed to finalize agreement on what promises to be a very large contract. Middleton and Boras combined last winter to deliver Jake Arrieta to his new home on a private jet; it could be they’re making similar arrangements now.
The market developments have remained mysterious since Machado reportedly agreed to terms. Word emerged (see here and here) that the Phillies felt in command, with the Giants still involved, the Padres trying to see if they could somehow finagle a stunning double-play, and the White Sox bowing out of contention. Today, the Nationals seemingly indicated they were on the sidelines.