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The latest Harper free-agent rumors

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After a seven-season tenure with the Nationals that included a National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, an NL MVP Award in 2015 and six All-Star nods, Bryce Harper is now a free agent for the first time.

Below you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the outfielder.

After a seven-season tenure with the Nationals that included a National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, an NL MVP Award in 2015 and six All-Star nods, Bryce Harper is now a free agent for the first time.

Below you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the outfielder.

Do the Mets need either Harper or Pollock to avoid slipping in the NL East?
Jan. 20: The Mets have been among the busiest teams in the Majors this offseason, making big moves under new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen that include a trade for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from the Mariners, as well as landing free agents Jeurys Familia, Wilson Ramos and Jed Lowrie. But will it be enough to avoid taking a step back in the National League East next season?

SNY's Matthew Cerrone asks whether this could be the case given what the Braves, Nationals and Phillies reportedly are trying to do to improve their rosters. He argues that New York needs to sign either Bryce Harper or A.J. Pollock in the outfield, not only for the obvious advantages to the Mets, but also to keep those players away from division rivals.

"The Phillies are projected to have the fourth-best lineup in the division," Cerrone notes. "By adding Harper or Manny Machado, they slip just pass the Mets. The bulk of reporting indicates they will eventually sign one or the other and could possibly sign both, which, if that happens, puts their projection atop the entire division. 

"Similarly, if the Braves then add Pollock -- and a mid-rotation starter, which they're in the market to acquire -- they, too, move past the Mets, who drop from second to fourth."

Will the Mets surprise the baseball world and end up landing Harper, who MLB Network recently ranked as the No. 5 right fielder in baseball right now and along with Machado is the most coveted free agent on the market? Could New York be a "mystery team" for the superstar slugger? It remains to be seen, but the shakeup of power in the NL East would be seismic if that were to happen.

Bryant says Harper won't sign with Cubs
Jan. 18: It appears that a scenario that many people -- particularly Cubs fans -- have speculated to be a dream pairing of Bryce Harper with Las Vegas native and close friend Kris Bryant won't happen. At least that's what Bryant said on Friday at the annual Cubs Convention, per MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. 

Tweet from @MLBastian: Kris Bryant, on Bryce Harper: ���He���s not signing here.��� Said Cubs have a ���killer team��� even without any major additions. Added that he doesn���t talk about the FA process with Harper.

"I know Bryce. I don't know if he's going to be here," Bryant added to NBC Sports Chicago. "But I definitely don't talk to him about it. He's a good friend to me, but I never bring it up to him because I want to be a good friend to him and not talk about baseball when he doesn't want to talk about baseball. 

Tweet from @NBCSChicago: If Bryce Harper isn't joining the Cubs, Kris Bryant wants to smash him every time they play! pic.twitter.com/T0dE72J9Em

"If he doesn't come here, I know we're going to want to smash him every time we play him."

Harper has stirred the social media realm in recent years by poking at the possibility of joining Bryant and the Cubs when his long-awaited free agency began to manifest. But now with that time here, Harper signing with the Cubs appears less and less likely. Specifically, Chicago has publicly claimed that it does not have the financial bandwidth to take on another megacontract, especially with the club already projected to exceed the Competitive Balance Tax threshold. Harper reportedly rejected a 10-year, $300 million deal from the Nationals at the end of the regular season. 

Bryant and Harper have been close friends since they were children, having grown up through the competitive ranks in Las Vegas, and they regularly spend time with each other during the offseason. In December, they both attended a Nelly concert together, and they also spent New Years Eve with each other. 

Bryant went on to say that he's surprised that the free-agent market has been quite slow to develop -- particularly at the top with Harper and star shortstop Manny Machado, as ESPN's Jesse Rogers shared on Friday. Harper and Machado have both been linked to the White Sox and Phillies, but beyond that, the Nats are the only team known to have significant interest in Harper and the Yankees are among a very small handful of teams pursuing Machado. 

Tweet from @ESPNChiCubs: Kris Bryant, on Harper and Machado: ���Its weird. It���s really weird. Two of the best players in the game and they have very little interest in them, from just what I hear. It's not good. Its something that will have to change. I know a lot of the other players are upset about it.���

Phillies' 'dream' outfield: Harper, Trout, Cutch
Jan. 17: The Phillies are thinking big. "Harper and Mike Trout in the same outfield" big.

According to a report from Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci -- citing a source with knowledge of Philadelphia's offseason plans -- while the Phillies have enough money to sign both Harper and Manny Machado, they'd actually like to sign just one. Why? So they can make a run at Trout, too, if he hits free agency after the 2020 season.

"In one dream scenario," Verducci writes, "the Phillies would field an all-MVP outfield in 2021: Trout, Harper and Andrew McCutchen."

Trout and Harper might be the two most talented players of their generation, and the "Trout vs. Harper?" question was one of the biggest debates in the baseball world as the two ascended to superstardom. Putting them together on one roster really would be a dream for any team.

Assessing which 'mystery teams' may actually be in on Harper and/or Machado
Jan. 17: As the offseason drags on and Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain unsigned, the door will stay open for more teams to jump into the race, especially if there's a sense that the price to sign them may not be as high as many initially expected.

In an article for ESPN+ (subscription required) on Thursday, Buster Olney listed some of the so-called "mystery teams" that are drawing speculation from industry insiders and broke down each club's chances of signing one of this offseason's superstar free agents.

Olney is hearing the Astros, Giants and Braves being mentioned as potential suitors for Harper; the Yankees and Padres as possible contenders for Machado; and the Rangers, Twins and Cubs as three teams that could sign either player.

Olney thinks most of these clubs will continue to sit out of the proceedings, but he could see Houston entering the mix for Harper if the slugger is willing to accept a shorter-term deal with opt-outs. The Astros nearly acquired Harper before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline this past season, but the Nationals backed out. As Olney points out, the team is in win-now mode, especially with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole set to enter free agency next offseason.

"They've got the money, for sure," said one rival official.

The Astros seemingly have their starting outfield set after signing Michael Brantley, but Harper would represent a massive upgrade in right field over Josh Reddick, who recorded a .718 OPS in 2018.

Olney concedes that it might seem odd to have the Yankees as a potential mystery team for Machado, as they were one of three clubs -- along with the Phillies and White Sox -- to meet with him in December. But with Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu in the fold, New York is not aggressively pursuing Machado at this time. That could change, though, if Machado's asking price falls into a range that the Yankees are more comfortable with.

Three teams reportedly are in on Harper -- but several more could swoop in
Jan. 16: There have been plenty of rumors and all kinds of buzz surrounding free-agent superstar Bryce Harper since the start of the offseason more than two-and-a-half months ago. The latest news is especially interesting because it appears to narrow down the field of interested teams to three primary suitors -- at least, for now.

The Phillies, Nationals and White Sox, all of whom have been connected to Harper in numerous reports, are "the only three teams known to be in" on the slugging outfielder, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: phillies, nats and chisox are the only 3 teams known to be in on bryce harper. but fwiw, word is, several teams are said to be waiting in the wings. the word "waiting" suggests this may yet take awhile.

Several teams, however, "are said to be waiting in the wings," Heyman continues, meaning that a) more clubs likely are (or could be) in the mix at various levels of interest and engagement, and b) the Harper sweepstakes may not be nearing a conclusion any time soon.

With pitchers and catchers due to report in less than a month, is it possible negotiations for Harper could push close to -- or even into -- the start of Spring Training?

Phillies choosing between Harper and Machado; do they have a preference?
Jan. 16: One of the popular theories earlier this offseason was that the Phillies had so much money available that not only were they seen as the prohibitive favorite to sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, but they actually could consider paying up for both free-agent superstars.

That pie-in-the-sky scenario for Phillies fans isn't happening, according to Matt Gelb of The Athletic (subscription required). But that doesn't mean Philly won't wind up with one of the premier young talents in the sport. On the contrary, it's looking like the club is seen as a favorite -- it's just a matter of which one they choose to sign.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman notes that while Machado seemed to be the Phillies' top choice at one point, the club may now be leaning toward Harper, to whom the club is expected to make an offer soon, if it hasn't already.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Philly is in excellent position to sign one or the other of the free agent mega stars ��� Harper or Machado. Signing both though is said to remain pretty unlikely. But after they secure 1, Phils may take a closer look at other top free agents (ie Keuchel, Kimbrel, Pollock)

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Felt like Machado was Phils��� top choice at one time. Now it seems like it���s even or maybe a lean toward Harper. That 4/5 hour, 2 video meeting in Las Vegas sounds like it went great for Harper and the Phillies, who are expected to make offer to him soon, if they haven���t by now.

The Phillies sent a group of their decision-makers -- including managing partner John Middleton, president Andy MacPhail, general manager Matt Klentak and manager Gabe Kapler -- to meet with Harper in his hometown of Las Vegas over the weekend. The visit went rather well, as MLB.com's Todd Zolecki writes.

Heyman points to the Phillies' previous acquisition of shortstop Jean Segura, Harper's star power and the desire to one-up the rival Nationals -- who are believed to be in on the outfielder, but not Machado -- as reasons why the club could prefer Harper over Machado. Heyman also hears that Harper and Kapler "really hit it off," as both have similarly intense personalities.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Phillies could still go either way on the 2 FA mega stars. But here���s why they may be leaning Harper now: 1) acquisition of ss Segura 2) Harper cachet, success at philly 3) great meeting w/Harper 4) competition for Harper comes from nl east rival nats, who beat phils for Corbin

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Word is, Harper and Kapler really hit it off during the Las Vegas meeting, which could be another factor in Phillies��� thinking. Easy to see that: both quite intense

Back in late December, the Phillies hosted Machado at Citizens Bank Park, too, making them one of two teams -- the White Sox are the other -- known to have had face-to-face sit-downs with both stars this offseason. That could give them an advantage over some of the other suitors who have been linked to one player or the other, a list that potentially includes the Nationals, the Yankees and the Dodgers.

And yet, the waiting game continues for the Phillies, who don't seem to mind seeing how this plays out, because of the fact that either Harper or Machado could be a great fit for them -- and their financial fortitude to perhaps present the largest offers to either player.

"There is risk in dragging out this dance," Gelb writes, "but multiple league sources indicated the Phillies' risk of losing out on both stars is mitigated by the apparent lack of interested teams throughout Major League Baseball and the club's financial wherewithal."

Can Nationals afford Harper and Rendon?
Jan. 16: As the baseball world speculates where free agent Bryce Harper will land, the Phillies and the Nationals are seemingly leading the race -- and might be the only two teams in the running -- at this point.

One major advantage the Phils have is that they can likely outbid the Nats for Harper. Washington exceeded the luxury-tax threshold in each of the past two seasons and is going to be up against it again in 2019. The penalties get steeper when teams exceed the threshold in consecutive seasons, and there is also a surtax for exceeding it by $20 to $40 million. Signing Harper would likely put the Nats more than $20 million over the threshold in 2019.

The team also needs to worry about Anthony Rendon's impending free agency next offseason. According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required), Rendon and agent Scott Boras, who also represents Harper, are seeking a deal similar to Jose Altuve's.

The Astros gave Altuve a five-year, $151 million extension before the 2018 season, covering 2020-24. At the time, Altuve was already under contract for $12.5 million over 2018-19, bringing his total deal to seven years and $163.5 million.

As Rosenthal points out, signing Harper and extending Rendon would likely give the Nats a combined luxury-tax number exceeding $130 million for just five players (Harper, Rendon, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin) over the next three seasons, assuming Strasburg doesn't opt out after 2019 or 2020.

However, MLB.com's Jamal Collier gets the sense that the Nationals are proceeding as if they can afford both players.

"As recently as the Winter Meetings, [general manager Mike Rizzo] said he felt like there was room for both," Collier said Tuesday on MLB Network. "And I think that when he looks at the number that Rendon just signed for in arbitration -- $18.8 million -- that's about what the Nationals think for an extension, he'll be making over that time. And the fact that they're still in on Harper while negotiating with Rendon makes me think that they think they can sign both.

"It's going to be a matter of what exact number is Harper coming back for. If that number is closer to $400 million, there's probably not room for more. … If that number is closer to 10 years, $300 million, then there's probably a scenario where the Nats can fit both of these guys in. ... But I would certainly say, the way they're operating, the way they're going about their business, they haven't ruled it out, so right now I won't rule it out either."

Are the Phillies now leading the race to sign Harper?
Jan. 14: Following a five-hour meeting with Bryce Harper in his hometown of Las Vegas on Saturday, are the Phillies now the favorites to sign the market's most coveted free agent? Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported as much on Sunday, citing three anonymous sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations. 

Nightengale adds that the Nationals, who were considered the favorites to sign Harper after a lengthy meeting over the holidays, now believe they are a "long shot." 

The Phillies are also among a handful of favorites to sign Manny Machado -- and those odds could have increased, given that the Yankees' dialogue with the coveted shortstop have become "either dormant or completely dead," according to a report on Sunday from ESPN's Buster Olney. Nightengale's report added that the Yanks have "no intention of offering [Machado] a megacontract."

Philly is expected to make a formal offer within the week, per the report. MLB.com's Todd Zolecki reported on Sunday that the club may be shifting its sights on Harper instead of Machado, to whom the club has issued a formal offer, per Zolecki.

For their meeting with Harper, the Phillies sent managing partner John Middleton, president Andy MacPhail, general manager Matt Klentak, manager Gabe Kapler and assistant general manager Ned Rice to meet with Harper and his agent Scott Boras, and the club's front-office officials left the meeting feeling "optimistic" to land either Harper or Machado.

"It was really impressive to spend some time with him, get to know him better, answer his questions, and we got to ask some questions, learn about him, and I think that's a really important step in any negotiation is kind of understanding what the other party is looking for. And now we'll see where it takes us," Klentak told 6ABC in Philadelphia late Saturday night.

Until they make their offer to Harper, however, MLB.com's Jim Duquette doesn't think the Phils can be deemed the front runner.

"At least make an offer," Duquette said on MLB Network Radio. "It looks so absurd that you're actually going to try to declare that and you haven't put an offer on paper. … So until that actually happens, there's no Philly front runner for Harper.

"Just because you were the last team to meet with him does not make you the front runner," Duquette added.

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: .@Jim_Duquette: The #Phillies are not the front runner on Bryce Harper until they "Show Him The Money!"#Nationals pic.twitter.com/lMUsXgBNL9

At this point, the only team that is believed to have offered Harper a contract is the Nationals, whose latest offer was reportedly north of $300 million. As a result, Duquette thinks they are still the leading contender to sign the slugger.

In either case, MLB.com's Jamal Collier writes that Washington shouldn't be counted out.

"Harper's relationship with the organization, as well as [general manager and president of baseball operations Mike] Rizzo and the Lerner family, is strong," writes Collier. "A few front office members have wondered if eventually ownership will find a way to make it work to keep Harper in D.C. long term, even if doing so would almost certainly put the Nats over the luxury tax threshold again."

Video: MLB Tonight on Phillies, Harper meeting in Las Vegas

What potential mystery teams could be in on Harper and/or Machado?
Jan. 14: At this point, it seems clear which teams are the frontrunners for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, but is it possible there are some unknown clubs in the race, waiting to pounce? The door is certainly open for that outcome, as neither player has found a deal to his liking with the current contenders. In fact, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported last week that Machado's camp was telling some people that there is indeed an unknown team involved, though Heyman couldn't confirm the validity of that rumor.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Machado camp is telling some folks there���s a mystery team in addition to Chisox, Phils. Validity is unknown.

So which clubs might be lurking as potential "mystery teams?" After extensive research into the market, MLB.com's Richard Justice named five in a column that was published Monday, putting the Giants at the top of his list.

"Since [president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi] has not traded away Madison Bumgarner, his most valuable asset, that could be a tipoff that the Giants aren't diving into any kind of rebuild," Justice writes. "What they need more than anything is an impact offensive player or two, preferably an outfielder. Signing Harper would insert the Giants back into the postseason conversation and also give the franchise a foundational piece to build on for the next decade or so."

Find out here what other teams could stun the baseball world by swooping in to sign Harper or Machado.

After meeting with Harper, Phillies optimistic
Jan. 12: Phillies executives traveled to Las Vegas to meet with superstar free agent Bryce Harper on Saturday, and according to Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer, they emerged from the meeting "optimistic" about their chances to land either Harper or fellow 26-year-old free agent Manny Machado this offseason.

In addition to the Phillies, the other clubs seen as frontrunners to land Harper on what may be an unprecedented deal are the Nationals and White Sox. Philadelphia and Chicago are also seen as the frontrunners in the chase for Machado. As Breen notes, one area in which the Phillies may be able to stand out is the sheer amount of money they can offer either superstar. Phillies owner John Middleton said earlier this offseason that the club might be "a little stupid" in how it spends its money.

So should money be the ultimate deciding factor, the Phillies may be the favorite. Philadelphia recently hired a mentor of Machado's, former Orioles third-base coach Bobby Dickerson, as infield coach. And that came after the White Sox traded for Machado's brother-in-law Yonder Alonso and signed close friend Jon Jay. 

Both Harper and Machado are reportedly looking to exceed the record contract Giancarlo Stanton received from the Marlins in 2014, which was for 13 years and $325 million. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported that the amounts on the table in Machado's case are closer to $200 million than they are to $300 million.

Meanwhile, MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM analyst and former MLB general manager Jim Bowden reported Washington made an offer well north of $300 million to Harper, after it initially offered 10 years and $300 million toward the end of the regular season. MLB.com's Mark Feinsand wrote earlier in the week that momentum appeared to be building for a Harper-Nationals reunion.

Do Phillies have another reason to meet with Harper?
Jan. 11: The Phillies are set to send a sizable contingent of their decision-makers to visit with Bryce Harper in his hometown of Las Vegas on Saturday, according to multiple reports. On the surface, the club is doing so because of legitimate interest in the free-agent superstar. There's no denying that the team and the player are a great match, as MLB.com's Richard Justice wrote Thursday.

But is there perhaps another reason -- an ulterior motive, if you will -- for this cross-country trek?

MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal presents just such a possibility in a column for The Athletic (subscription required) in which he examines how bringing back Harper -- who is seeking a deal north of Giancarlo Stanton's record $325 million contract -- would impact the Nationals' already lofty payroll.

"If the Phillies' preference is [Manny] 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," Rosenthal speculates. "Harper and [his agent Scott] Boras, in fact, might be proceeding with the same motivation."

Oh, wouldn't that be something? Sure, the most likely scenario is that the Phillies are meeting with Harper because they want him -- and are willing to spend some of their "stupid" money on a 26-year-old lefty slugger who would fit their lineup and rebuilt roster exceptionally well over the next decade.

But it's at least fun to consider that the Phillies could be making a show of heading to Vegas -- a city known for big, over-the-top displays -- as a way to push the rival Nats, who many now view as the favorite for Harper, to (ahem) raise the stakes on their reported 10-year, $300 million-plus offer.

Just a little showdown between a pair of clubs that expect to go head to head to win a super-competitive NL East division? Hmmm.