By Lewis Gould
It is not an exaggeration to say that the Phillies future is on the line today in Las Vegas:
Their front office – including owner John Middleton – is in Nevada to meet with prized free agent Bryce Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, in their first face-to-face talks.
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak met with Boras during the winter meetings in Las Vegas to discuss the player, but Harper and his wife, Kayla, did not attend.
This will be the third known team that Harper has talked directly with during his free agency. He earlier spoke to the Chicago White Sox in Las Vegas and the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles.
Harper met with White Sox president Ken Williams and GM Rick Hahn, along with Hall of Famer Jim Thome, in November, but White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf did not attend the meeting. It’s unknown which Dodger officials attended the meeting with Harper and Boras in mid-November.
The only public offer Harper has received was on Sept. 26 when the Washington Nationals proposed a 10-year, $300 million contract that was slightly deferred, decreasing the value to $250 million to $284 million. The Nationals said in November that the offer was no longer on the table, and they since have spent $180 million on five free agents, led by starter Patrick Corbin’s six-year, $140 million contract.
Harper and Boras met with again Nationals owner Ted Lerner on Dec. 22 at his home in Palm Springs, Calif., but it was unknown whether the Nationals are willing to increase their offer, or whether it still stands.
The White Sox and Phillies have also met with infielder Manny Machado, and the White Sox recently submitted a formal proposal for about $200 million. No official offer has yet been tendered to Harper.
The Phillies have long been linked to Harper with Middleton telling USA TODAY Sports in November that they wanted to be aggressive this winter in hopes of reaching the postseason, ending their postseason drought.
Philly has already spent $73 million this winter, signing outfielder Andrew McCutchen and reliever David Robertson.
Middleton hasn’t been shy about the club’s plans to pursue free agents this winter, telling USA TODAY Sports in November that the club was “expecting to spend money and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.”