Report: Harper Joining Phillies ‘More Probable Than Ever Before’

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

Saturday is perhaps the biggest day for the Philadelphia Phillies in recent memory, as members of its front office — including Managing Partner John Middleton — will collectively meet face-to-face for the first time with both Bryce Harper and agent Scott Boras.

The USA Today's Bob Nightengale, famous for reporting earlier this offseason to "bank" on the Phillies signing Harper, recently joined SportsRadio 94 WIP's High Hopes podcast with James Seltzer and Jack Fritz, and said for Middleton to be on the trip to Harper's hometown, it is a "fabulous sign that they want to get this thing done."

"If Harper wasn't considering Philadelphia and they weren't that serious about Harper, there's no way that they would spend an entire day together, which they plan to do," Nightengale said. "The fact that Harper and his wife will be there, and John Middleton … I think it's a great sign."

Nightengale said "nothing hasn't" wavered him from his original report, given the only thing that's happened since he wrote the column is that the Washington Nationals "haven't gotten away."

"At that time, the Nationals said, 'hey, we offer him $300 million, he turned it down, see you later.' Since that time, the Nationals have remained engaged," Nightengale said. "To what degree? No one's really sure. That's the only difference. They're still in the mix."

Despite Harper's first and only team thus far in his career still being involved in discussions, Nightengale said he still thinks Harper donning Phillies red pinstripes in 2019 is "more probable than ever before."

"The "big boys" aren't involved," Nightengale said. "The Cubs aren't involved, and [also] the Dodgers … who would probably be his first choice. … I think the Phillies will blow away the White Sox … The Cubs and Dodgers haven't stepped forward with any offers, so I really think it comes down to the Phillies and Nationals."

Harper considering Philadelphia has not always been a sure thing in the "rumor mill." On December 26, the New York Post's Joel Sherman reported that neither Harper, or fellow superstar free agent target Manny Machado "particularly like" the city.

Regarding that report, Nightengale said the only thing he has heard is that there is concerns about the ways visiting players' families are treated at Citizens Bank Park.

"The Phillies fans can be rough, and so can fans everywhere for that matter. I think the one thing the Phillies have to do when they go there Saturday, is say, 'you know what, it is completely different as a home player, compared to you as a visitor. You would be beloved here. You're not going to get boo'ed. No one's going to taunt the family in the stands,' that sort of thing.

Maybe even say, 'talk to guys … Chase Utley, who played all those years; talk to Jimmy Rollins, who made his home there.'"

Expectations are at an all-time high among Phillies fans that the club will land at least one, if not both Harper and Machado. Without a doubt, Harper's meeting on Saturday could be the biggest moment in recent club history, if he indeed chooses to sign.

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