By Mark Polishuk | January 2, 2019 at 10:37am CDTThe Phillies are planning to meet with Bryce Harper in Las Vegas within “the next week or so,” a source tells NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury. This comes on the heels of a Winter Meetings chat between the team and Scott Boras, Harper’s agent, that wasn’t attended by the free agent outfielder.
While Philadelphia has long been linked to Harper, it seems the team has directed much of its attention towards Manny Machado in recent weeks. Reports from the aftermath of Machado’s visit with the team indicated that the Phillies preferred Machado to Harper if they had to pick between the two superstars, and Salisbury writes that “Machado remains the Phillies’ primary focus.” That said, the Phillies know they have at least two other major suitors for Machado in the form of the Yankees and White Sox, so obviously it makes for the Phils to explore all options with Harper should Machado sign elsewhere.
The more nebulous nature of Harper’s market also presents some opportunity for the Phillies to strike, while there is some sense of a “final three” for Machado, there has yet to be such a level of concrete public interest exhibited by Harper’s suitors. The Dodgers, Nationals, White Sox, and Cubs (if they can free up some payroll) all have at least some level of interest in Harper, though other potential suitors like the Yankees, Cardinals, Giants, or Braves all seem to be on the periphery of talks, if involved whatsoever. Some teams already held face-to-face meetings with Harper during the Winter Meetings or at Harper’s home in Las Vegas, though the exact identities of the teams involved is still somewhat vague.
The Phillies have a clear positional need for Harper and seemingly little in the way of payroll constraints that other teams are facing to fit Harper within the luxury tax threshold. Therefore, there’s certainly room for the Phils to push their way to the front of the pack if they so desire. If the Phillies would indeed have to “probably have to significantly outbid the Yankees to land” Machado, as Salisbury writes, Philadelphia might prefer to simply direct its resources to a superstar that the Yankees (seemingly) aren’t pursuing.