Stephen Strasburg will burn through service time while on DL

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I hate to spread more icing on the Nationals’ bad news cake, but a side effect of Stephen Strasburg likely needing Tommy John elbow surgery is that he would burn through service time while on the disabled list.
In other words, even if he never throws a pitch in 2011 and spends the entire season on the 60-day disabled list Strasburg will use up one season of pre-arbitration status. That will push him one season closer to a raise via the arbitration process and, far more importantly, one season closer to becoming a free agent.
Or, put another way, because of the surgery the Nationals will likely go from having Strasburg under team control for six full seasons to having him under team control for five full seasons. And all after they so clearly (and smartly) manipulated the start of his service time clock by keeping him in the minors until mid-June.
Of course, the wasted service time really only becomes a big factor if Strasburg returns from surgery and re-establishes himself as an ace, in which case the Nationals will surely still be thrilled with the outcome even if they lost a year.

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.