Nick Cafardo on A-Gon, Upton, Crawford, Dodgers, Prior

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No writer packs more valuable information into a Sunday notes column like the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo.  He’s at it again today with details on a variety of big time free agent and trade options.  Let’s review:

  • Though he’s unlikely to be moved this winter or even next summer, so far the White Sox, Cubs, Orioles, Nationals and Red Sox have shown trade interest in San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.  The 28-year-old hit .298/.393/.511 with 31 homers in 2010 and is entering the final year of his tenure with the Padres.
  • Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton has been dangled on the trade market this winter and is drawing interest from the the Mariners, Blue Jays, Marlins, Red Sox and Royals.  It’s going to take a serious package of prospects to lure him away from Arizona’s grasp, but enough clubs are intrigued and it’s quite possible that he is moved this offseason.
  • The Dodgers have a bunch of holes to fill this winter but are seeking one major thing: leadership.  That could come in the form of veterans like Juan Uribe, Johnny Damon and A.J. Pierzynski.
  • Brewers GM Doug Melvin has set a deadline for extension talks with first baseman Prince Fielder.  If talks don’t progress by the end of spring training, the big man is likely to be on the trade market next summer.
  • Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett is drawing trade interest from the Giants, Orioles and Nationals.  Bartlett was a disappointment in 2010, and Tampa is prepared to go with Reid Brignac at short.
  • The Angels have already engaged in serious talks with free agent outfielder Carl Crawford and appear to be the front-runner for his services.  He’s thought to be seeking a contract worth north of $100 million.
  • The Brewers and Nationals are moving “swiftly” on free agent starter Carl Pavano.  He registered a 3.75 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over 32 starts this year for the Twins.
  • Three teams are interested in signing Mark Prior, but he’s not totally set on a comeback.  That decision should come soon.

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.