UPDATE: Rojas reports that Concepcion has now officially been declared a free agent, with the Yankees, Rangers, Phillies, Cubs, and White Sox showing the most interest.
Cuban defector Gerardo Concepcion has established residency in Mexico and the 18-year-old left-hander is close to being declared a free agent by MLB, according to agent Jaime Torres.
Torres told Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes that Concepcion will soon be cleared to negotiate with teams after going 10-3 with a 3.36 ERA to win the Rookie of the Year award in Cuba.
He defected in June when the Cuban team was in the Netherlands for a tournament, with Rojas noting that Aroldis Chapman defected at the same tournament in 2009 before signing a $30 million deal with the Reds.
Last week Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune wrote that Concepcion “is considered a finesse pitcher but has succeeded with his command,” suggesting that he won’t be in line for a huge, Chapman-like deal.
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.