The long-anticipated meeting between Phillies leadership and free agent Bryce Harper took place yesterday.  Even Phillies part-owner John Middleton headed west to try to land the lefty slugger.  According to a report, it sounds like the meeting went pretty well, to the point that the Phillies could be favorites to land Harper.

While little news came out of yesterday's meeting, Bob Nightengale of USA Today got the inside dirt:

The Philadelphia Phillies, and not the Washington Nationals, have emerged as the clear-cut favorite to sign free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper after meeting with him for five hours Saturday in Las Vegas, three officials told USA TODAY Sports.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of ongoing negotiations, but the Phillies have become the most aggressive team in their pursuit for Harper while the Nationals’ interest appears to be waning. Nationals executives are now calling a reunion with Harper a “long shot.’’


Could it be the level of price that is causing the Nationals to back off?

The Nationals made reported offers of 10 years and $300 million, which reportedly took place at the end of the season.  Then Jim Bowden of  SiriusXM and The Athletic reported recently that there was another, more aggressive offer on the table, perhaps worth as much as $320 million.  Knowing all of this, the Phillies still got on a plane and headed West.  That is a clear sign that they were willing to pay more.

In terms of other potential suitors, the Chicago White Sox were reportedly interested, but they have not been linked to Harper in recent days.  However, as we learned as infielder Manny Machado was visiting teams, the White Sox are not willing to go more than seven years on any player.  That would seemingly knock them out of the Harper sweepstakes.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were suspected to be clearing payroll to open up space in their outfield and payroll for Harper.  However, the Dodgers still are up against the luxury tax threshold, which has lasting negative effects attached to exceeding it.  The Dodgers do not appear to be in on Harper.

As Nightengale notes, there are still ongoing negotiations.  There will likely be opt-out opportunities and other innovative contractual items that superagent Scott Boras usually includes.  And of course, anything could happen before a signature ends up on the bottom line.

But for now: it looks good for the Phillies.

More From 97.3 ESPN