CEO says Padres will increase payroll to at least $50 million in 2012

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Padres chief executive officer Jeff Moorad said yesterday that the team’s payroll will rise to at least $50 million in 2012, adding that “our long-term goal is to operate at $70 million.”

That would be a big raise over this season’s $45 million payroll, but even $70 million would rank just 20th among all MLB teams this season and figures to rank even lower by the time the Padres actually reach that figure.

Much of that increase will come from the team’s new television contract, which goes into effect next season, but Moorad explained that the Padres don’t plan to be significant players in the free agent market because “we’re going to run an efficient business on and off the field.”

All of which makes it seem pretty unlikely that they’d commit to Heath Bell on a long-term contract unless the impending free agent gave them a sizable hometown discount after making $7.5 million this 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.