Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

Report: Harper, Phillies in 'deep and serious negotiations'

February 23, 2019 - 10:43 pm

By: Eliot Shorr-Parks

PHILADELPHIA (WIP) -- Phillies owner John Middleton might very well be flying back to Florida with the biggest free agent prize in baseball. 

According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, Middleton, the Phillies and Harper are in "deep and serious negotiations."

"Owner John Middleton doesn’t want to leave Las Vegas without a deal," Nightengale tweeted.

Middleton flew to Las Vegas on Friday night to meet with Harper and his agent Scott Boras, and although multiple reports suggested the two sides wouldn't be coming to a deal during the visit, that might be changing. 

The report about the two sides being in serious negotiations comes just one day after the team that was viewed to be the Phillies' biggest competition, the Washington Nationals, essentially bowed out of the race. 

"We've moved on. As I said back then, we had to. There was no way we could have waited around," Mark Lerner, son of Nationals owner Ted Lerner, said to NBC Sports. "Bryce I'm sure will make his decision hopefully in the next few days. We filled out our roster. We wish him nothing but the best. The door is cracked a little bit, but I have no clue at this point what they are up to. We really haven't heard from them in a couple of months. 

Lerner's comments leave some wiggle room, but the main message is clear -- barring a last-second miracle, Harper is not going back to the Nationals. With the Nationals out, the race for Harper seems to be down to the Phillies, San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres. 

Despite some rumors that Harper might not want to play in Philadelphia, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia told the 94WIP Midday Show earlier this week that is simply not true. 

"I do believe it's all about money," Salisbury said on Thursday. "I've heard the reports and the rumble that he doesn't want to play in Philadelphia. I've asked people that are very, very close to him if that's true and they say that it's not true. We'll see."

Salisbury says the Phillies are aware of the backlash that will come from the fans if they do not land Harper. 

"Right now all of the focus is on Harper," Salisbury said of the Phillies. "(The Phillies) are aware there is enormous public pressure to do something. I think they are very much aware of the 326 number, which would beat the Stanton guarantee."

According to Jon Morosi of the MLB Network, it appears the Nationals are out of the race. Salisbury says the "great unknown and probably the key question of this whole thing," is who is competing agains the Phillies. The Phillies, according to Salisbury, are really cautious in competing against themselves. 

"Some teams have flat out said they are out of it, I just don't know if you can ever count someone out of it until he's signed, sealed, and delivered," said Salisbury.