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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Pivotal day in Phillies off-season as club officials meet with Bryce Harper

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Harper with a 'Key to the City' from his hometown of Las Vegas

A front office and coaching contingent from the Philadelphia Phillies will meet today with outfielder Bryce Harper in his hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada.
In what may prove to be the pivotal moment for the franchise for the next decade, the young superstar and his wife Kayla will be joined by super-agent Scott Boras.
The Phillies will be led by owner John Middleton. He will be joined by the club’s President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail, General Manager Matt Klentak, Manager Gabe Kapler, Bench Coach Rob Thomson, and Hitting Coach John Mallee.
During the meeting there will certainly be lengthy discussion about the team and its direction. They will talk about the ballpark and the fans. There will be discussions about the Philadelphia region and some of its attractions and offerings.
The Phillies group is surely going to try to sell Harper on being the face of the franchise. However, they will let him know that he is not going to be alone, that they fully intend to maintain a championship-caliber roster during the life of his deal.
Middleton’s presence in Las Vegas can mean only two things. One is that he intends to let the Harper’s and Boras know that the Phillies will not be financially outbid and are ready to get a deal done right now.

The second possibility is that the Phillies are still really more interested in the other major young free agent superstar on the market, Manny Machado, and today’s Vegas meeting is all just a major ploy, one that itself has a two-fold purpose.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic posited the following on Thursday:
“If the Phillies’ preference is Machado, as some in the industry believe, then the meeting from their perspective might simply be a ploy to drive up the price for the Nationals, a division rival. Harper and Boras, in fact, might be proceeding with the same motivation.”
So, the Phillies may be trying to drive up the cost for their NL East rivals to bring back Harper. That could conceivably tie the Nats hands on other moves over the longer term.
Secondly in that alternate scenario, the Phillies could be pushing Machado to make a quicker decision. If Machado and his agent, Dan Lozano of MVP Sports, feels that the Phillies and Harper are close to a deal, it might force the infielder’s hands in beating the outfielder to take a big payday from the team.
Back to scenario #1 for a moment. If the Phillies are indeed actually fully interested and desire Harper, what would it take to land him? Based on all of the available information, Boras certainly wants the richest contract in baseball history for his client by both total value and AAV, or annual average value.
It is no stretch to imagine that a Harper contract would be at least 10-years and $350 million. Such a contract might include some type of player opt-out after between 3-5 years, which could make him a free agent once again while still just 29-31 years of age.
The Phillies would be foolish to agree to an opt-out at three years after this much build-up for their fan base. If a deal is done, look for a Harper opt-out at no sooner than five years. If the Phillies want to avoid the opt-out entirely they are going to have to guarantee even more, perhaps as much as $400 million.
One thing is certain. If the Phillies are genuinely interested in Harper, then Middleton would not be flying out to Vegas without fully understanding the financial commitment that it would take to get the 26-year-old’s name on a contract.

The feeling around the baseball industry is that Machado is close to deciding. That announcement could come as soon as next week. It is entirely possible that by next weekend, we will know a decision. It will be monumental from the Phillies perspective.
If Machado chooses to sign with another team – the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox seem to be the only other possibilities – then the pressure on the Phillies to land Harper will be enormous.
But if Machado should choose the Phillies, then things become very interesting. Do the Phillies then move on from Harper? Do they try to land him as well?
The Phillies have more to do, no matter what happens with Harper or Machado. But it will be difficult to make too many more major moves until they get some resolution on these two biggest targets. Today is likely the pivotal day, one way or another.

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