By Sam Bush

Phillies owner John Middleton made a late-night flight to Vegas to meet with free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper in his hometown of Las vegas, ESPN’s Jeff Passan is reporting.

The Phillies also met with Harper in January in Las Vegas. And the offseason began with Middleton saying, “We’re going into this (free agency) expecting to spend money. And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.”

On Thursday, the San Diego Padres signed the other big name of the free-agent market, Manny Machado, to a 10-year, $300 million deal. It is the biggest free-agent contract in American sports history.

Other teams known to have met with Harper this winter include the San Francisco Giants, Chicago White Sox, Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals, with whom Harper spent the first seven seasons of his career.

Harper, 26, is looking for a deal in excess of the 10 years, $300 million the Nationals reportedly offered him at the end of the regular season. The left-handed-hitting Harper batted only .249 in 2018, but had 34 home runs and 100 RBIs and came on strong after the All-Star break.

The Phillies were 11th in the National League in runs scored last season, and their right-handed-heavy lineup could use a lefty power hitter.

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