While the Philadelphia Phillies failed to sign Bryce Harper while meeting him, his wife and agent, Scott Boras, for five hours in Las Vegas on Saturday, the club has emerged, however, as the "clear-cut" favorite to sign the superstar, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.
Nightengale's report comes through three officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity "because of ongoing negotiations."
"The Phillies have become the most aggressive team in their pursuit for Harper while the Nationals’ interest appears to be waning," Nightengale writes. "Nationals executives are now calling a reunion with Harper a 'long shot.’'"
With the Phillies said to be the "favorite" to land Harper, they could already be preparing for him to don red pinstripes. Vince Velasquez has reportedly changed his number from 28 to 21, possibly freeing the former number for Harper.
Fellow superstar free agent Manny Machado, who was considered to be the club's top target between the two, still could join the Phillies. Interest remains, despite the Phillies being "strongly encouraged" about their chances to sign Harper after their Saturday meeting, which included two slide-show presentations by the Phillies, according to Nightengale.
The Phillies will reportedly make their formal offer to Harper "within a week." Harper's other suitors, the Chicago White Sox and Nationals, are not as engaged. Chicago has yet to make an offer to Harper, like the Phillies, and are looking elsewhere, while the Nationals "have not formally engaged with Harper for nearly a month," according to Nightengale.
"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," Nightengale writes.
"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."