On Friday night, news broke, per The Inquisitr, that the private plane owned by Philadelphia Phillies owner John Middleton had been spotted in Las Vegas, the hometown of free agent baseball superstar Bryce Harper. It was soon confirmed that Middleton was, in fact, in town to meet with Harper and his team, including agent Scott Boras, although the team’s front office of president Andy MacPhail and general manager Matt Klentak did not make the trip.
Soon after, reports from Jon Heyman and other reporters stated that Middleton’s visit was more of a “meet and greet” than an effort to close an immediate deal on Friday and called it unlikely that a deal was imminent. A large Phillies delegation had traveled to Las Vegas to meet with Harper back in January.
There wasn’t much news throughout the day Saturday until reporter John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia tweeted at 6 p.m. Eastern time that Middleton and his plane were still in Las Vegas.
However, things appear to have moved between the Phillies and Harper.
The Phillies and Harper are “in deep and serious negotiations with Bryce Harper,” reporter Bob Nightengale of USA Today said on Twitter Saturday night. Nightengale also said that the Phillies owner “doesn’t want to leave Las Vegas without a deal.” The same reporter had tweeted Friday that “The biggest question no longer seems to be whether Bryce Harper will ultimately sign with the Philadelphia
#Phillies, but just how big of a check John Middleton will be writing.”
However, Clark tweeted again later Saturday night that “John Middleton spent good amount of time in Vegas today but it looks like his plane is headed back East.”
#Phillies Owner John Middleton was scheduled to leave Las Vegas this morning where he was meeting with Bryce Harper & agent Scott Boras but Middleton remains in Vegas at this time sources tell @6abc— Jeff Skversky 6abc (@JeffSkversky) February 23, 2019
Middleton & Phillies are hoping to make progress in pursuit of signing Harper pic.twitter.com/GHGopJXvxw
While various other teams, including the San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox, and Harper’s current club the Washington Nationals have been mentioned throughout the process as possible Harper suitors, the Phillies have been the favorite throughout the entire process. The team doesn’t have the payroll or luxury tax constraints that many other teams do, and Middleton went on record earlier in the offseason with the Phillies wanting to get a little “stupid” about spending money on players.
At the Stadium Series hockey game Saturday night in Philadelphia between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins, fans unfurled a banner that read “COME HOME HARPER.”
Harper, drafted by the Nationals at age 17 in 2010, has been with the Washington organization throughout his professional career, making his major league debut in 2012. Harper has become one of baseball’s elite players, but has never led the Nationals to a playoff series in his career.