Bryce Harper appears to be taking final offers as free agency process nears an end

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Harper met with the Phillies, Dodgers and Giants in recent days

For months, the Philadelphia Phillies were among the leading contenders to land one of the two big free agents available during this Hot Stove season.

With infielder Manny Machado coming off the market last week, the focus of the team was squarely on the other prize. Now it appears that the battle for outfielder Bryce Harper may be finally drawing to a close.
The Phillies may have put their final best offer on the table this past weekend when principal owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas and met on Saturday with Harper, his wife Kayla, and agent Scott Boras. Middleton then returned to Florida and has said that he will make no further public comments until the process is complete.
On Sunday it was the Los Angeles Dodgers turn to meet with the Harper group in Sin City. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was part of that Dodgers contingent and had this to say per Bob Nightengale of USA Today: “It was good, just trying to get to know each other. I think in the spirit of us, the Dodgers, vetting a certain process makes sense and for those guys to do their due diligence as well.
Then on Tuesday the San Francisco Giants took their shot, with CEO Larry Baer and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi known to have taken part in meetings with the Harper team. Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area reports that their sources indicate “the Giants and Harper’s team have discussed a 10-year contract.
If the most recent reports are to be believed, this would mean that both the Phillies and Giants have made long-term offers in excess of $300 million total dollars. It is believed that the Dodgers are hoping to lure Harper to SoCal with a more lucrative annual average value deal for a shorter term, perhaps three-to-five years for $35-40 million AAV.
There has also been increased speculation that a Harper deal for the long-term would have to include a player opt-out after three years. That would be smart from his perspective for a number of reasons.
First, it would allow him to re-enter free agency while still in his prime at age 29. Second, it would come a year after the free agency of Mike Trout, which will certainly elevate financial and other terms for all players. Third, it would come just as a new Basic Agreement was due between the players and Major League Baseball.

Everything is speculative at this point. Numerous sources are coming out with proclamations and predictions on a daily basis, stating that their individual sources have some new inside information to offer. Frequently these sources have differed wildly or outright contradicted others.
One thing feels certain. With spring training underway, game action already taking place in both the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, and the calendar about to turn to March, this process is drawing to a close. These meetings for the Phillies, Dodgers, and Giants were very likely a chance to put up their last, best offers.
I am predicting that we have an end to this saga before the weekend. Let’s see what happens, Phillies Nation.

The Phillies lose Roman Quinn to injury once again

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Perennially injured outfielder Roman Quinn goes down again

This is not a repeat. Roman Quinn is injured. The Phillies outfielder has suffered what has been called a mild right oblique strain, will have an MRI on Thursday, and will miss an undetermined amount of time.

An oblique injury is potentially debilitating for a baseball player as this core muscle is activated during both hitting and throwing. Should the MRI reveal a mild strain, Quinn could return to action after the weekend. If severe, we could be talking about months.
He’s very disappointed, and I’m disappointed for him,” said Phillies manager Gabe Kapler per Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic.
Kapler and Quinn are not the only two individuals now disappointed with this latest development. All of Phillies Nation is rightfully disappointed. The 25-year-old had a real opportunity with fellow outfielder Odubel Herrera also lost to injury to take a clear lead in the battle for the 2019 Phillies starting center field job.
Drafted in the second round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft by the Phillies out of a Florida high school as the 66th player chosen overall, Quinn was ranked by MLB Pipeline as a Top 10 Phillies prospect every year from 2013-16.

Over parts of seven minor league seasons, Quinn hit .278 with a .353 on-base percentage and 183 stolen bases over 429 games. He has appeared in 65 games with the Phillies split between the 2016 and 2018 seasons, hitting .266 with a .340 OBP, 15 steals and 23 runs scored.
Quinn’s dynamic impact at the top of the Phillies lineup when healthy has been undeniable. It was just last August in an interview with the local Philly SportsRadio 94 WIP morning showthat Kapler said that Quinn was “as talented and physically gifted as anyone on our roster.
But that entire “when healthy” part has become the more relevant when evaluating his potential contributions. The fact is that the team simply cannot rely on Quinn remaining healthy for any length of time. Certainly not enough to depend on him as a starting option.
Quinn said he was actually getting the MRI at 12:30 today. “I’ve lost the words. … I do pretty much everything that I possibly can to play this game and go out there and play. I keep having setback after setback after setback. It’s frustrating, man. It’s really frustrating.”

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Quinn has missed large swaths of time over the years with a variety of injuries: torn Achilles tendon, torn left quadriceps, concussion, strained elbow ligament, torn right middle finger ligament, broken toe. Now a right oblique strain.
I’ve been a vocal supporter of Quinn in both written pieces and on social media. I’m on record as saying previously that, if healthy, he is a better all-around player than Herrera and should be the Phillies starting center fielder. This latest injury is yet another sign that we simply cannot depend on him to remain healthy long enough to be relied upon as an everyday starter.
With the loss of both Herrera and Quinn, the Phillies starting outfield would now feature Andrew McCutchen in left, Aaron Altherr in center, and Nick Williams in right, with Dylan Cozens and Shane Robinson as the only experienced back-ups. The injuries could spur ownership and management to push even harder to sign Bryce Harper as a free agent.

Phillies lose reliever Tommy Hunter as first pitching injury of 2019

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Hunter becomes the first arm to go down in spring training

When objectively evaluating the Philadelphia Phillies 2019 roster for potential strengths and weaknesses, the bullpen would have to be listed on the “strengths” side of the ledger.

The addition of a few talented veterans this off-season to a solid returning group and some growing young arms has the pen looking stronger and deeper than it has in years.
Now less than two weeks into 2019 spring training that bullpen depth will begin to be tested. It’s first member has gone down due to injury. Tommy Hunter will be shut down for in indeterminate amount of time with a Grade 1 strain of the flexor muscle in his right pitching arm.
The flexor mass is a collection of muscles and tendons which come together in the forearm near the elbow. They function by allowing you to turn and flex your wrist. The injury as it affects a pitcher such as Hunter is described as follows by Robert G. Najarian, MD with Inova:
With flexor mass strains, pitchers usually don’t feel pain until the follow-through phase of the pitch. That’s when you need the flexor mass to snap the wrist to get the ball in the strike zone. When the flexor mass is injured, the ball often ends high and pitchers can have problems locating their pitch.
In general, Najarian states, the injury is treated with rest, anti-inflammatories, and a strength/rehabilitation program. Some players are out for just two weeks. For others the recovery can take as long as six to eight weeks. It all depends upon the severity of the injury and the individual player’s ability to recuperate.
The hope is that the Phillies and Hunter caught the injury early enough that this method of recovery will do the job. If such an injury is allowed to go untreated for too long, it could result in ligament damage and possibly the dreaded Tommy John surgery.
Hunter was signed by the Phillies as a free agent in December 2017 to a two-year, $18 million contract. The 32-year-old, 11-year veteran will not throw for two weeks and then will be re-evaluated.

The Phillies bullpen ranked around the middle of baseball last season. The club’s relievers as a group ranked 18th in ERA and BAA, 10th in K/9, and 11th in saves and K/BB among the 30 teams of Major League Baseball.
Hunter was likely going to be called upon by manager Gabe Kapler in the 5th-7th innings. He is one of a strong group of right-handed relievers that also includes David RobertsonPat NeshekHector NerisSeranthony DominguezJuan NicasioEdubray Ramos, and Victor Arano.
Teams usually lose players at some point during the spring training process. But this marks the second injury to a player who was expected to make-up part of the Opening Day roster. Outfielder Odubel Herrera was lost for an undetermined length of time with a hamstring injurylast week.
There is enough roster depth to cover for the loss of Herrera and Hunter at this point. The hope is that these are the most significant injuries that the Phillies have to deal with as they prepare for what is hoped to be a playoff-contending campaign.

Hamstring injury early in spring training sidelines Odubel Herrera

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Herrera injured early on in 2019 spring training camp

The Philadelphia Phillies have suffered their first loss of the spring due to injury. In a battle with Roman Quinn for the starting job in center field, Odubel Herrera has suffered a Grade 1 hamstring strain.

Herrera is believed to have first tweaked the hamstring in his left leg just prior to the official opening of camp. The 27-year-old was in Clearwater, Florida for more than a month, working out early in anticipation of the positional battle ahead.
Then during a practice session with the team last Wednesday, Herrera felt the same hamstring tighten up while he was going from first to third base as part of a baserunning drill.
Scott Lauber reported at the time that manager Gabe Kapler did not seem to be concerned. “We think he will get over this very quickly. We’re getting it checked out.

Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic today reported an update on the situation, which has kept Herrera of action since suffering the injury:
They’re now calling it a Grade 1 hamstring strain for Odubel Herrera, and Kapler is unsure when he will make his Grapefruit League debut. Kapler said it won’t be in the next few days, though.

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Per physioworks.com: “with a grade 1 hamstring strain, you may have tightness in the back of the thigh but will be able to walk normally. You will be aware of some hamstring discomfort and unable to run at full speed. There will be mild swelling and spasm.
However, as we have seen with many similar injuries to athletes over time, hamstrings can be tricky. Those types of injuries have an extremely high re-injury rate. Herrera will be closely guided and monitored by the Phillies training staff and you can look for a conservative approach in easing him into workout and game action.
This is a setback for the fifth-year player. His batting average has fallen each of the last three seasons. His OPS has dropped each of the last two years, and his extra-base total dropped from 59 to 44 a year ago despite 34 more plate appearances. He has also virtually ceased being a stolen base threat. After swiping 41 bags over his first two seasons, Herrera stole just eight bases in 2017 and five last year.
After being informed that he would have to compete for the job this year, Herrera was quoted by Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia: “My mentality is that I’m still the center fielder. All that I can control is the work that I put in on the field. The rest is up to the front office and the staff. They make the decisions.
Now Herrera can no longer put in that necessary work. And he likely will not be able to do so for a while yet. If the Phillies should prove successful in landing free agent Bryce Harper, Herrera’s time missed would become even more critical.
Whether or not Harper is signed, the dynamic Quinn will provide plenty of competition. That is, of course, if the dynamic but frequently injured 25-year-old can stay healthy himself. In Sunday’s Grapefruit League game, Quinn had two hits, a stolen base, and scored a run.

It’s time for the Phillies to finish off the Bryce Harper negotiations

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Middleton (L) hasn’t had a slugger like Howard in years

“We’re going into this expecting to spend money. And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.”
This was the statement made by Philadelphia Phillies principal owner John Middleton at the Major League Baseball owner’s meetings back in mid-November. His statement lit a spark that blazed up Hot Stove logs in the fireplace of Phillies fans everywhere.
We believed all along that Middleton was the ultimate answer to the Phillies returning to the consistent glory that so many in that fan base had come to expect. Remember, this was the man who, after the club had dropped the 2009 World Series in six games to the New York Yankees, made the following statement to Ryan Howard“Ryan, I want my fucking trophy back. It’s fucking ours!” 
From 2001 through 2012, a period of a dozen seasons, the Phillies were playoff contenders nearly every year. But then the bottom dropped out, and for five years the team and those fans wandered through the darkness of a bleak losing wilderness.
For the first decade after Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004 those fans swarmed to the beautiful South Philly ballpark. More than three million tickets were sold in eight of those 10 seasons, including a half-dozen in a row. The ballpark was the place to be, a social happening every single game.
But as the losing began and club management and ownership seemed to give up on putting out a winning product, fan interest waned. The Phillies didn’t even draw two million for three straight years from 2014-17.
Things appeared to be turning around last season. The club was a surprising contender for much of the summer, leading the division for more than a month from July 6 through August 12. Fans responded to the winning and some strong promotional events by filling more than 30,000 seats for 18 games between late-June and mid-August.
But as the team collapsed to a 12-28 record over the final six weeks, fan interest dried up. The Phillies drew that 30,000 figure just five more times. All of those were on weekends, with three specifically for Sunday promotions.
The message from last year when viewed against the previous handful of seasons is clear to Middleton. Do your job and put a winning team on the field and fans will respond. The message from a decade ago is also clear. Put players on that winner who those fans can relate to and who excite them, and they will come out in droves.
General manager Matt Klentak has performed well thus far. In what has been by far his best off-season to date the GM has signed free agents Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson and swung trades to bring in Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto.
Middleton does understand. He is one of us in this regard: he is also a fan. He is driven. He wants to win. That is why he fueled up his private jet with the red Phillies “P” branded on the tail and had the pilots fly him out to Las Vegas, hometown of the biggest fish in this off-season’s large free agent lake, Bryce Harper.
But it isn’t enough. Look around at the other National League contenders. The Phillies are improved, but so are any number of other teams that already appeared to be ahead of them. The fans realize that this team has a chance to contend for a Wildcard spot now. But that is not what spending “stupid” money is supposed to get you.
The players added thus far by Klentak are respected by most of the fan base. But to really fill up the ballpark again it is going to require star power. Even with the additions and maturation of players like Rhys Hoskins and Aaron Nola, it is lacking marquee star power. There is no Mike Schmidt or Jim Thome.
After the other big free agent whom the Phillies took a run at this off-season, Manny Machado, signed with the San Diego Padres, Klentak stated “If the reports are true, then this contract will exceed our valuation and sometimes you have to be willing to walk away.” This is not one of those times. In fact, sometimes you have to be willing to go beyond mere numerical valuations.
That is where Middleton comes in at this point. Harper is the big fish, the top prize. He would bring the tremendous raw power to the lineup that has largely been missing since Howard’s 2006-09 peak years. He would bring star power not seen around these parts since ‘The Big Piece’ and his teammates began to age-out and break up earlier this decade.
After meeting with Harper, his wife Kayla, and agent Scott Boras this weekend, Middleton flew home on Saturday night due to a prior engagement. While he was gone, representative of the Los Angeles Dodgers reportedly slipped into Vegas on Sunday and tried to take one last shot at luring Harper with a short-term deal.

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Would Bryce Harper be interested in a short-term, high AAV deal with the ?@Ken_Rosenthal discusses the Dodgers reported interest in Harper on .

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I have never met the man, but I believe that I know John Middleton. He is not going to let this get away from him. At least not over money and desire. I fully expect the Phillies owner to be back on his plane and heading back out to Vegas to close this thing out. It may be happening as you read this, in fact.

It is time, and he knows it. When a big game is on the line at the end, you send in your strong-armed closer. When an important business deal is getting down to the brass tacks of final negotiations, you send in the big guns to close. John Middleton is the closer, the big gun. It is time to close out Bryce Harper.