Free agent Harper set to meet with Phillies

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - Bob Night­en­gale

The Philadel­phia Phillies’ front office, in­clud­ing owner John Mid­dle­ton, is flying to Las Ve­gas on Jan. 12 to meet with prized free agent Bryce Harper and his agent, Scott Bo­ras, in their first face-to-face talks, a per­son with di­rect knowl­edge of the ne­go­ti­a­tions told USA TO­DAY. The per­son spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the sides are in the early stage of ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Phillies gen­eral man­ager Matt Klen­tak met with Bo­ras dur­ing the win­ter meet­ings in Las Ve­gas to dis­cuss the player, but Harper and his wife, Kayla, did not at­tend.

This will be the third known team that Harper has talked di­rectly with dur­ing his free agency. He ear­lier spoke to the Chicago White Sox in Las Ve­gas and the Los An­ge­les Dodgers in Los An­ge­les.

Harper met with White Sox Pres­i­dent Ken Wil­liams and GM Rick Hahn, along with Hall of Famer Jim Thome, in Novem­ber, but White Sox chair­man Jerry Reins­dorf did not at­tend the meet­ing. It’s un­known which Dodger officials at­tended the meet­ing with Harper and Bo­ras in mid-Novem­ber.

The only pub­lic offer Harper has re­ceived was on Sept. 26 when the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als pro­posed a 10-year, $300 mil­lion con­tract that was slightly de­ferred, de­creas­ing the value to $250 mil­lion to $284 mil­lion. The Na­tion­als said in Novem­ber that the offer was no longer on the ta­ble, and they since have spent $180 mil­lion on five free agents, led by starter Patrick Corbin’s six-year, $140 mil­lion con­tract.

Harper and Bo­ras met with again Na­tion­als owner Ted Lerner on Dec. 22 at his home in Palm Springs, Cal­i­for­nia, but it was un­known whether the Na­tion­als are will­ing to in­crease their offer or if it still stands.

The White Sox and Phillies have also met with infiel­der Manny Machado, and the White Sox re­cently sub­mit­ted a for­mal pro­posal for about $200 mil­lion. No official offer has yet been ten­dered to Harper.

The Phillies have long been linked to Harper, with Mid­dle­ton telling USA TO­DAY in Novem­ber that they wanted to be ag­gres­sive this win­ter in hopes of reach­ing the post­sea­son, end­ing their their post­sea­son drought. Philadel­phia has al­ready spent $73 mil­lion this win­ter, sign­ing outfiel­der Andrew McCutchen and re­liever David Robert­son.

Mid­dle­ton hasn’t been shy about the club’s plans to pur­sue free agents this win­ter, telling USA TO­DAY in Novem­ber that the club was “ex­pect­ing to spend money and maybe even be a lit­tle bit stupid about it.”

ERIC HARTLINE/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Bryce Harper was an All-Star six times in seven sea­sons.

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