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ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that a deal between Harper and the Phillies will not be reached Friday night “barring something completely unexpected.” Passan called the situation a “meet-and-greet” between Harper and Middleton.
The meeting comes after Matt Breen of Philly.com reported Thursday that the Phillies are “confident” they will sign Harper.
Phillies officials first met with Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, in Las Vegas in January, per Salisbury.
Harper is by far the biggest domino left to fall in free agency after infielder Manny Machado signed a 10-year, $300 million deal with the San Diego Padres this week. The Padres are one of the teams that had been linked to Harper, but they may be out of the running after committing so much cash to Machado.
The Washington Nationals have also been rumored to be in on Harper after he spent the first seven seasons of his career with the organization, but Nats owner Mark Lerner told NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas on Friday that he has “moved on” from the six-time All-Star.
Per Salisbury, Harper is hoping to top the $300 million Machado got from the Padres as well as the $325 million guaranteed outfielder Giancarlo Stanton got from the Miami Marlins in 2014.
The Phillies may be the team that is best positioned to do that since they have shown a willingness to spend this offseason. Philadelphia has signed outfielder Andrew McCutchen and reliever David Robertson, as well as traded for shortstop Jean Segura and catcher J.T. Realmuto.
Those moves have the Phillies looking like a team that could contend in the National League East in 2019 after going 80-82 last season.
Adding Harper may put them over the top and make them World Series contenders. The 26-year-old is a one-time NL MVP (2015) who is coming off a season that saw him hit 34 home runs and drive in 100 runs.
Regardless of where Harper signs, the shoe figures to drop soon since spring training is already in full swing.