The Philadelphia Phillies have received a close look at what Bryce Harper can do throughout his career while competing against him in the National League East, and they are doing what they can to make sure his future production happens in their uniform—even though the Washington Nationals are reportedly not out of the race.
According to Jeff Passan of ESPN.com, the Nationals are still "a possible landing spot" for the generational talent.
Harper played with Washington in each of his first seven years in the league, and it appeared as if he wouldn't be returning when Bob Nightengale of USA Today cited team executives who called a re-signing a "long shot."
Nightengale called the Phillies the "clear-cut favorite" to sign Harper following an in-person meeting in Las Vegas on Saturday while pointing out the six-time All-Star previously turned down a 10-year, $300 million contract proposal from the only team he's ever known in September.
Passan echoed some of those Phillies sentiments when he said their pursuit of the free agent "grew stronger" following the meeting, although he noted they are also still "in the hunt" for free-agent shortstop Manny Machado.
Philadelphia hasn't made the playoffs since the 2011 campaign but trended in the right direction from 2017 to 2018. It improved by 14 games with an 80-82 record and finished in third place in the National League East, its best finish in the division since 2012.
The Phillies already traded for shortstop Jean Segura and signed outfielder Andrew McCutchen this offseason, and adding Harper would bolster its already improving playoff chances. He is just 26 years old and already has a National League MVP and Rookie of the Year on his resume.
Harper drilled 129 combined home runs the last four years and is coming off a 2018 campaign that saw him tally a career-best 100 RBI and league-leading 130 walks.
Whichever team signs him will be adding one of the premier talents in the league, and the Nationals are apparently still in the mix despite their division rival's best efforts.