Called up from Double-A late last night, Rangers prospect Mike Olt is making his big-league debut tonight starting at first base and batting eighth.
Olt was primarily a third baseman in the minors and projects as a good defender there long term, but the Rangers already have one of the league’s best all-around third basemen in Adrian Beltre.
As for who he’ll be replacing when he plays … that’s not clear based on tonight’s lineup because manager Ron Washington is using an odd group versus left-hander C.J. Wilson. For one thing, Mike Napoli is on the bench. Beyond that Ian Kinsler is at designated hitter, Michael Young is at second base, Geovany Soto is at catcher, and Craig Gentry is in center field.
Trying to draw any conclusions from that is tough, but Washington indicated to reporters that Olt will play mostly first base and designated hitter versus left-handed pitchers, at least initially.
Olt played exclusively third base during his first two pro seasons, but this year he’s appeared in 13 games at first base and three games in right field along with 78 games at third base. Clearly the Rangers were preparing him for a potential call-up and new defensive role, and they decided to pull the trigger last night after Olt hit .288 with 28 homers and a .977 OPS in 95 games at Double-A.
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.