Bryce Harper Rumors: Return to Nats Heating Up as Phillies Turn to Manny Machado

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2019

BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 10:  Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals and Manny Machado #13 of the Baltimore Orioles talk during their game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 10, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Washington Nationals are reportedly making a strong push to bring back free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper, which has led the NL East rival Philadelphia Phillies to amplify their pursuit of free-agent shortstop Manny Machado.

Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reported the updates Wednesday with a source saying the race to sign the offseason's top two targets is "heating up."

Harper has spent his entire professional career with the Nats, who selected him with the first overall pick in the 2010 MLB draft. He made his big league debut in 2012 and ranks 12th among position players in WAR across the past seven years, per FanGraphs.

In September, he told Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post he wanted to remain in Washington but was unsure whether the business side would work out.

"I've always said: If I'm in those plans, I'd absolutely love to be here," Harper said. "But if I'm not, there's nothing I can do about it. There's nothing I can do. I would love to play next to [Victor] Robles or [Juan] Soto or [Adam] Eaton. I'd love to. But am I in those plans? I have no idea."

Jim Bowden of The Athletic reported last week the Nationals had made the 2015 NL MVP an offer for 10 years in excess of $300 million.

Meanwhile, Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports reported the Phillies were a threat to sign both Harper and Machado entering the offseason.

Although there's been little talk about that type of monumental splash recently, it appears Philly is still heavily involved in the Machado sweepstakes.

The 26-year-old infielder posted a .297/.367/.538 slash line and tied his career-high 37 home runs with the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers last season. He's a four-time All-Star selection.

Feinsand noted the Chicago White Sox and potentially the Dodgers are still keeping tabs on Harper, while the New York Yankees are Machado's "preference," though they've been unwilling to meet the contract demands to this point.

If Harper does return to Washington and Machado lands in Philadelphia, the NL East could be the league's best division next season with the Atlanta Braves still on the rise thanks to a young roster and the New York Mets looking to bounce back on the strength of their terrific rotation.

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