Phillies exercise Lee's option for 2010; extension talks next?

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In perhaps the biggest no-brainer decision of the offseason, the Phillies have exercised their $9 million option on Cliff Lee for 2010.
While speculation about Roy Halladay dominated the headlines leading up to the July 31 trading deadline the Phillies sent prospects Carlos Carrasco, Jason Knapp, Jason Donald, and Lou Marson to the Indians for Lee and watched as he went 11-4 with a 2.78 ERA in 17 starts between the regular season and playoffs following the deal.
Prior to the trade Lee had a 3.14 ERA in 22 starts for the Indians and was the reigning AL Cy Young winner after going 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA in 2008, so there should be little doubt that the 31-year-old left-hander is among the truly elite starting pitchers in all of baseball.
Expect the Phillies to pursue long-term contract talks this offseason and expect Lee to begin negotiations with a proposal well north of $100 million.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.