Jeff Keppinger out 3-4 months following foot surgery

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Earlier this offseason the Yankees were said to be talking to the Astros about trading for Jeff Keppinger, but those talks apparently fizzled and now the veteran infielder is expected to miss the beginning of the season following foot surgery.

General manager Ed Wade told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com that Keppinger’s recovery time is expected to be 3-4 months, which likely means he’ll be sidelined well into April and could be a question mark for much of the first half.

Keppinger hit .288/.351/.393 with six homers and more walks (51) than strikeouts (36) in 575 plate appearances as the Astros’ primary second baseman last season, but with the trade for Clint Barmes and the signing of Bill Hall he was slated for a part-time role in 2011 even before the injury (which likely explains why the Astros were open to trading him).

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.