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.
Phillies could sign one of Harper or Machado -- but not both
Jan. 15: 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. 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.
In a story detailing why the Phils feel confident (subscription required) in their slow-play approach with regard to Harper and Machado so far this winter, Gelb writes: "League sources insisted the Phillies have made this much clear during negotiations: They will not sign both players."
MLB Network insider Jon Heyman is hearing much the same, adding that the Phillies are expected to make an offer to Harper soon, if they haven't already.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
Should teams be worried about giving a 10-year deal to Harper?
Jan. 11: As the free-agent market continues to thin out, the two biggest names out there -- Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, but you probably already knew that -- remain available. Dallas Keuchel, A.J. Pollock and Craig Kimbrel are still unsigned as well. What do these players have in common? They are all reportedly seeking long-term deals, something teams have been hesitant to give out in the past two offseasons.
Jonah Keri of CBS Sports polled a number of executives about why Harper and Machado haven't signed yet, and the aversion to adding players on lengthy contracts was one of the reasons mentioned.
"I think most of it is that teams aren't excited to sign anyone to 10-plus-year contracts," one exec said. "They are almost all bad deals. Certainly both players at their ages have advantages over most players who are free agents three, four, and five years older. But most teams are too rational to feel great about giving out 10-year contracts to anyone."
Indeed, many of the longest contracts in MLB history have later turned out to be albatrosses. But Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post argues that the risks that applied to many of the players who signed those deals don't apply to Harper or Machado because of their relative youth. Harper and Machado are 26. Albert Pujols, Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez (in 2007) were all over 30 when they inked 10-year contracts.
Svrluga compares Harper and Machado to Rodriguez in 2001, when he landed a 10-year, $252 million contract with the Rangers as a 25-year-old. That deal would have covered the '01-10 seasons, had Rodriguez not opted out after the '07 campaign, at which point he signed an ill-fated 10-year contract for $275 million with the Yankees.
Now, the Rangers may argue that the franchise was hamstrung by Rodriguez's deal, preventing it from building a competitive team around him. After three straight last-place finishes, Texas traded the slugger to New York in 2004. But from a production standpoint, Rodriguez's original deal was a smashing success. Over the 10 years covered by the original deal, Rodriguez averaged 42 homers and 124 RBIs per season while recording a .971 OPS.
Will Harper choose the Nats?
Jan. 9: Although the Phillies are preparing to meet with Bryce Harper in Las Vegas on Saturday, per a report from USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Nationals appear to be the favorites to land the superstar outfielder.
A source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand that momentum is building toward Harper's return to Washington, causing Philadelphia to step up its pursuit of Manny Machado.
"It's heating up," the source said.
Harper rejected the Nationals' initial offer -- which was reported to be 10 years and $300 million -- in late September, but The Athletic's Jim Bowden tweeted last week that the club had increased its offer beyond $300 million.
While the Phils' willingness to spend "stupid" money, in the words of owner John Middleton, means they can't be counted out when it comes to Harper, the club is believed to prefer Machado, sources told Feinsand.
It could cost the team less to sign the infielder than it would to get Harper, as the two other teams that are known to be in on Machado -- the Yankees and the White Sox -- reportedly aren't willing to approach $300 million for him.
If the Nats indeed re-sign Harper, the Phillies will likely be even more motivated to outbid the other two clubs for Machado to keep pace with their division rivals.
In any event, MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi, in an interview on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, said he doesn't think Harper will sign before February.
Harper set to meet with Phillies
Jan. 8: The Phillies are sending a contingent of front-office personnel -- including owner John Middleton -- for a meeting on Saturday in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper and agent Scott Boras, a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations told USA Today's Bob Nightengale.
Middleton fueled the hype train for the Phillies' offseason plans when he said the club was "expecting to spend money and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it" back in November. The biggest free agents Philadelphia has signed so far, however, are Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson.
This will be the first face-to-face meeting between Harper and the Phils, per Nightengale. Philadelphia general manager Matt Klentak met with Boras at the Winter Meetings, but Harper was not present. Nightengale notes that Harper previously met with the White Sox and Dodgers this offseason, and he also visited Nationals owner Ted Lerner at Lerner's California home in December.
"If you're going to fly all the way to Vegas, I think you have to leave Vegas having put on the table the most years and the most dollars anybody has offered Bryce Harper," MLB Network Radio host and former GM Jim Bowden said. "Or don't get on the plane."
Bowden added that because the Phillies are contending with the Nationals -- both for Harper's services and in the NL East -- they need to "walk in there with 10 years, $350 million" if they want to put themselves in better position than the Nats are to land the outfielder.
MLB.com's Jim Duquette offered up a similar take on what the Phils need to do to convince Harper to sign with them.
"Unless the Phillies are flying into Vegas and offering him a huge deal, where it's a record-breaking deal, where it's more money and a higher [average annual value] than we've ever seen in the sport, I don't see how the Phillies can stack up with the Nationals, with the relationship that Bryce has with the ownership group there," Duquette said Tuesday on MLB Network's "High Heat" program.
The Phillies also had an in-person meeting with Manny Machado -- this offseason's other superstar free agent -- in Philly in late December and are very much in the mix for the infielder, along with the Yankees and White Sox. The team prefers Machado over Harper "in part because he plays elite-level defense at third base," MLB.com's Todd Zolecki writes, "but there is no question Harper would be a massive upgrade to the Phillies' lineup."
By Saturday, the Phillies will be just the second club to have face-to-face visits with both Harper and Machado; the White Sox are the other. Perhaps after sitting down with Harper this weekend, Philadelphia's brass will have a sense of which big name they prefer to make a push for, assuming ownership is in fact on board with spending some "stupid" money.
Video: Duquette analyzes if Phillies are a fit for Harper
Was report of new offer from Nats Boras' way of driving up market?
Jan. 7: Although the Nationals have gone about their business this offseason as if Bryce Harper is not returning, a recent report from The Athletic's Jim Bowden -- who tweeted that Washington had increased its offer to Harper beyond $300 million -- put the club back at the top of the list in the eyes of many.
But The Athletic's Brittany Ghiroli wonders if agent Scott Boras was the one to float that rumor to drive up the market for the superstar outfielder.
"Perhaps the Nationals have no intention of going well over the $300 million-mark, and the latest leak is designed to cause a team like the Phillies to panic and up their own offer," Ghiroli writes (subscription required). "If that's true, why wouldn't D.C. come out and refute the report? Because it helps them, too. First, it makes it look like they're doing everything possible to retain Harper. (Whether it's true or not, it's great PR.) Second, if it drives up the price for a rival team, why not? If the Nationals are going to lose Harper, it would make the sting a little better to know what perhaps that extra $30 or $40 million prevents them from plugging a hole elsewhere."
Ghiroli doesn't doubt that Washington remains interested in a reunion with Harper, as the club has reportedly had multiple meetings with the 26-year-old in recent weeks. She also concedes that the Nats may indeed be willing to offer more than $300 million for him.
But Washington's roster is already expensive without Harper, and as Ghiroli points out, future considerations -- such as the impending free agency of All-Star third baseman Anthony Rendon -- will likely be a factor in how much the Nats can offer.
Video: MLB Tonight on chances Harper comes back to Nationals