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Hittin’ Season #248: The Phillies are the “favorites” to land Bryce Harper

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After a meeting in Las Vegas, it appears the Phils are much closer to signing the star outfielder than they were before.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

When the off-season started, Bryce Harper to the Phillies made the most sense. People were betting family farms that it would happen, as Harper’s fit in Philadelphia and the Phils’ wide open purse strings were such that it just made too much sense for it not to happen.

But as the winter moved along, it became clear the Phillies had shifted their attention to Manny Machado. They brought the stud shortstop in for a meeting at Citizens Bank Park, wined and dined him, and have reportedly made at least one contract offer to Machado, if not two.

But Harper was always clearly a part of the Matt Klentak’s off-season plan, and after Saturday’s meeting in Las Vegas, it has become apparent that signing Harper now feels closer to happening.

Zolecki reported...

Two sources told MLB.com on Sunday that the Phillies’ presentation and meeting went well. So well, in fact, that the Phillies might be shifting their focus from Manny Machado to Harper, although it is unknown if the club made a formal contract offer to Harper before leaving town.

Zolecki reported the Phillies have been optimistic that they will sign one of the two superstars, and with a formal offer on the table for Machado and some good vibes emanating from the Harper meeting, that feels closer to being true then at any time since the World Series ended.

And USA Today’s Bob Nightengale was even more effusive in the Phils’ chances, specifically, signing Harper.

Nightengale said...

The Philadelphia Phillies, and not the Washington Nationals, have emerged as the clear-cut favorite to sign free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper after meeting with him for five hours Saturday in Las Vegas, three officials told USA TODAY Sports.

As for Machado, it appears the Chicago White Sox may be the only other team to be pursuing him as hard as Philadelphia.

But is it possible the Phillies could still sign BOTH? Nightengale says, don’t rule it out.

Really, the only $200 million-plus question for the Phillies is whether they sign Harper or Machado. They are prepared to make the largest offer to each of them.

Who knows, maybe even both, with the Phillies refusing to rule out the possibility of having the two 26-year-old superstars on one team.

The odds of both coming to Philadelphia are still highly unlikely, but just weeks ago, it felt the chances were better the Phillies would get neither rather than both. Feels like those tides have changed.

Harper appears to be the fan favorite. He would be the guy that would generate the most interest, encourage the most season ticket sales, and sell the most shirseys. And while Machado might be a purer “baseball fit,” in that he’s a superior defender at third base than Harper is in the outfield, Harper’s defense has taken unnecessary lashings, and his clubhouse attitude and brashness may be more what the team needs.

Regardless of how this all shakes out, it seems clear the Phillies are going to get one of these guys.

On Hittin’ Season Episode 248, hosts John Stolnis, Justin Klugh and Liz Roscher react to the Las Vegas meeting between the Phillies and Bryce Harper. We break down all the latest ins and outs of the Macharper sweepstakes, fitting both onto the payroll, the Phils’ contract difference with Aaron Nola, and some chatter about the financial health of Major League Baseball.