Harper set to meet with Phillies as final decision looms

The long, slow, often behind-the-scenes dance Bryce Harper has been playing all winter has to come to an end eventually, right? I mean, he’s going to be playing for some team in 2019, and pitchers and catchers report for spring training in 4 1/2 weeks.

Few are surprised the Harper saga has stretched into January, but most observers around the sport don’t expect it to stretch much longer. Harper and agent Scott Boras have a pretty good sense of the market at this point, and this weekend they’re going to get even more sense about the interest level of one club that has always loomed as a potential destination.

Members of the Phillies front office, including owner John Middleton, are scheduled to meet with Harper and Boras in Las Vegas sometime today, according to multiple reports. It’s probably safe to assume this won’t be a simple meet-and-greet. There are going to be hard numbers put out there for both sides to chew on, because it’s just about crunch time for a final decision.

Harper-Swinging-White-STL-Sidebar.jpgWe’ve known all along the Phillies were going to be major players in this saga. Middleton himself opened the offseason talking about he would be willing to spend “stupid” money in an attempt to lure a top free agent to Philadelphia, and that’s probably what it’s going to take to convince Harper to move there.

That’s the real question, of course: Does Harper want to move to Philly and spend the bulk of the rest of his career there? He has plenty of experience playing at Citizens Bank Park, and he has enjoyed success (a .930 OPS and 14 homers in 50 games there). Though it should be noted the Phillies’ juggernaut years had already passed by the time Harper arrived in 2012. He has only heard about the nightly sellout crowds during the franchise’s run of five consecutive division titles from 2007-11, culminating with its 2008 World Series championship.

Not that Harper doesn’t have someone he can call right up and ask for a firsthand view of that. Jayson Werth was part of those great Phillies teams, so he can share everything he knows with Harper, both the good and the bad of playing in one of the more fickle sports towns in America.

Philadelphia has its strengths and its drawbacks, just as Washington does. There is no perfect landing spot for Harper, though it has always seemed like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York were particularly appealing to him. We just don’t know yet how committed the Dodgers, Cubs or Yankees are to signing him.

We’re getting closer, though. It’s mid-January now. Harper has to be getting antsy to make the biggest decision of his professional career. And today’s meeting with a determined Phillies franchise should help bring some clarity to this drawn-out saga.

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