Conflicting reports came out of Las Vegas on Saturday evening, but baseball insiders following the Philadelphia Phillies’ quest to sign free agent Bryce Harper appear to agree — the 26-year-old, six-time All Star will soon join the Phillies at their spring training facility Clearwater, Florida. In fact, according to a Twitter report USA Today baseball reporter Bob Nightengale, who has covered the Harper free agent sweepstakes closely, there remains “optimism” from the meeting between Phillies’ owner John Middleton and Harper that a 10-year-deal to bring the outfielder to Philadelphia will be wrapped up by Monday afternoon.
But a fresh report late Saturday night threw that “optimism” into doubt.
There was earlier confusion, with Nightengale reporting at 7:37 Pacific Time that Middleton was “still in Las Vegas,” while other reports said that Middleton’s aircraft had departed the city where Harper grew up and still makes his offseason home, and was headed back to Clearwater. Middleton “spent (a) good amount of time in Vegas today but it looks like his plane is headed back East,” wrote NBC Sports local Philadelphia reporter John Clark on his own Twitter account.
The report from Clark came in 39 minutes before Nightengale posted his tweet stating that Middleton was “still” in Las Vegas negotiation with Harper. But another Philly-based NBC reporter, Jim Salisbury, also wrote on Twitter, that Middleton “headed back east” after a “busy day of meetings.”
Some teams involved with Bryce Harper have said that his asking price is around 350-360 million. Thoughts on this? ???? pic.twitter.com/WAvrg42ehT— Baseball King™ (@BasebaIlKing) February 24, 2019
Salisbury’s tweet also came prior to Nightengale’s claim, by 19 minutes, seeming to indicate that local, Philadelphia-based reporters may have been receiving more privileged information regarding Middleton’s whereabouts that Nightengale was able to access. Did the Philadelphia reporter’s information, as a result, throw Nightengale’s claim that Harper would be in the Philly fold by Monday into doubt?
The answer, according to MLB.com Phillies beat reporter Todd Zolecki, also posting on Twitter, was — not necessarily.
Writing his tweet at 7:02 p.m. Pacific, exactly 35 minutes before Nightengale wrote that Middleton remained in Las Vegas, Zolecki wrote that he was not certain exactly where the team owner’s plane was at that time. “But I’m told no agreement had been reached in Las Vegas,” Zolecki said. He added, however, “That should not send #Phillies fans into a panic, though.”
In other words, while Nightengale may have been incorrect that Middleton remained in Las Vegas, his claim of “optimism” that a deal would be done within two days was not refuted simply because Middleton may have departed.
Or was it?
At 7:53 p.m. Pacific, MLB Network baseball “insider” Jon Heyman threw the entire Harper-Phillies scenario into question, writing on Twitter that the Phillies were not the only team in Vegas speaking with Harper.
“Two teams… were there to see Bryce today,” Heyman wrote. “‘With more to follow.'”