UPDATE: Still no word on the official roster move involved, but manager Bobby Valentine just said on WEEI radio that Middlebrooks will be in the starting lineup tonight.
UPDATE #2: Youkilis has been placed on the DL after saying he was at least 3-4 more days from being game ready, leaving Middlebrooks as the new starting third baseman.
It’s unclear if he’ll be added to the active roster or is merely going to hang around as insurance in case Kevin Youkilis’ back injury proves serious, but Maureen Mullen of CSNNE.com reports that Red Sox third base prospect Will Middlebrooks is on his way to Fenway Park.
Middlebrooks has been on fire at Triple-A, hitting .333 with nine homers and a 1.057 OPS in 24 games after ranking No. 54 on Baseball America‘s list of top prospects coming into the season.
Youkilis has missed three consecutive games with back soreness, causing the Red Sox to call up slick-fielding, weak-hitting shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias from Triple-A yesterday for some infield depth. And now Middlebrooks is joining him in Boston, although it remains to be seen if the 23-year-old will actually be making his big-league debut.
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.