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Middleton on Harper meeting: I think it was really positive

Bryce Harper is a six-time All-Star. (Arturo Pardavila III)

At some point Saturday, Philadelphia Phillies managing partner John Middleton and general manager Matt Klentak boarded a plan in Las Vegas, where it was nearly 60 degrees and partly sunny, and headed back to Philly, where they were greeted by 2019’s first snowfall. That snowfall didn’t stop the duo from being greeted by the media – eager to know how the Phillies meeting with free-agent Bryce Harper went – upon landing.

As manager Gabe Kapler walked towards his car, Middleton and Klentak joked about whose job it was to respond to reporters after what was likely an exhausting day. Ultimately, Middleton, he of the “stupid money,” stepped to the plate first.

I think it [the Phillies free-agent meeting with Harper Saturday] was really positive,” Middleton told a group of reporters, including Jeff Skversky of 6 ABC. “He’s got a wonderful wife, we really got to see the man, after we got to watch the player play for years. We got to understand what he would be like in the dugout, the clubhouse. He and his wife are a really impressive young couple. [They are] really committed to each other, and committed to their family and committed to the community. So it was really a good day to spend time with them.

Klentak, in the midst of a crucial fourth off-season at the helm of the Phillies, echoed the sentiments shared by Middleton.

It was really impressive to spend some time with him, answer his questions and we got to ask him some questions and learn about him,” Klentak added. “I think that’s a really important step in any negotiation, is kind of understanding what the other party is looking for, and now, we’ll see where it takes us.

Harper, 26, is a six-time All-Star. The Phillies, of course, have gotten very familiar with Harper, as Middleton alluded to, given that he spent the first seven seasons of his career with the division-rival Washington Nationals. The former No. 1 overall pick has hit 24 of his 184 career home runs against the Phillies, so the club would be killing two birds with one stone if they signed Harper – they would add a legitimate middle-of-the-order hitter and weaken a division rival.

So how likely are the Phillies to sign Harper? Though no one wants to hear it given that this off-season has turned into the prime example for why baseball needs to alter how their free-agent period works, it’s tough to tell. Very little is known about the Phillies meeting with Harper, other than that it took place and included Middleton, Klentak, Kapler, Andy MacPhail, Scott Boras, Harper and his wife, Kayla. In all likelihood, how the meeting went will have an impact one way or another on Harper’s desire to play for the Phillies.

The good news for the Phillies is that Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Saturday evening that Phillies brass “remain optimistic that they will end the offseason with either Harper or Manny Machado on their roster.” That came after Todd Zolecki of published a very similar report Friday. Of course, things are extremely fluid in an offseason as anticipated as this.

The Phillies met with Machado and his wife, Yainee, on Dec. 20 at Citizens Bank Park. Machado, a four-time All-Star, is 26, like Haper.


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