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Sources: Padres meet with Harper in Vegas

January 31, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres' quiet offseason is quiet no more.San Diego brass -- including managing partner Peter Seidler and general manager A.J. Preller -- met with superstar free agent Bryce Harper on Thursday night in Las Vegas, sources told MLB.com. MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal was first to report

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres' quiet offseason is quiet no more.
San Diego brass -- including managing partner Peter Seidler and general manager A.J. Preller -- met with superstar free agent Bryce Harper on Thursday night in Las Vegas, sources told MLB.com. MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal was first to report on the meeting.
The news comes on the heels of a busy week in which the Padres expressed legitimate interest in signing free-agent third baseman/shortstop Manny Machado, and they've been linked with Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, the top player available on the trade market.

San Diego has a bit of a logjam in its corner outfield, where Wil Myers, Franmil Reyes, Hunter Renfroe and Franchy Cordero are slated to compete for time. Harper, though, is undoubtedly one of the game's best hitters, and he'd walk straight into the middle of the Padres' order for most of the next decade.
A deal with Harper wouldn't come cheap. His contract would easily surpass Eric Hosmer's franchise-record eight year, $144 million deal from last offseason -- perhaps even doubling it. According to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi, the Padres are among four active suitors for Harper, joining the Phillies, Nationals and White Sox. Another undisclosed team "remains involved on the periphery," Morosi said.

In seven seasons with the Nationals, Harper posted a .279/.388/.512 slash line with 184 homers. He's been an All-Star in six of those seasons, and he won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2012 and NL MVP in 2015. He struggled a bit in 2018, yet still posted an .889 OPS, which would've far surpassed the team-leading .838 Reyes posted in 87 games and Renfroe's .805 in 117 games.
Thus, it's not hard to find a fit for Harper. The Padres' offense should already improve with the arrivals of top prospects Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urías in the middle of the infield. But there's a clear need for some middle-of-the-order thump, and Harper would provide exactly that.
One source suggested that if the Padres were to sign Harper, they'd actively look to trade a couple of their outfielders in an attempt to find pitching and/or third-base help. They've also been linked extensively to Realmuto, arguably the game's best catcher, and the surplus of young outfielders could help in that pursuit.
On the surface, Machado seems the better fit, given the club's glaring hole at third base. But some in the organization feel that with a superstar of Harper's magnitude, "fit" isn't an issue. With the sport's top-ranked farm system -- and perhaps a few other big league-caliber outfielders -- the Padres probably have enough pieces to address their rotation and third-base deficiencies via trade.
That said, San Diego's interest in Machado remains very real, and Thursday's scheduled meeting with Harper shouldn't be taken as an indication that Harper is the Padres' top priority over Machado.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.