Free agency is officially underway

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As of 12:01 a.m. ET this morning, MLB free agency was officially open for business.

Free agents are now free to negotiate and sign with any team. Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton headline this year’s crop, which isn’t nearly as impressive as ones we have seen in the past. Still, many believe that we could see some wild spending this winter, as the game is thriving and new television deals will put significant money in the pockets of each team.

You may have noticed yesterday that a handful of players received one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offers from their respective teams. Aaron has the full list here. The reason teams did that was to secure draft pick compensation if those players sign elsewhere. We’ll know by next Friday whether the offers have been accepted or declined.

In the past, most of the activity in the Hot Stove took place during the Winter Meetings in early December (this year it’s December 3-6 in Nashville), but it will be interesting to see if things develop more quickly this offseason. Under the previous collective bargaining agreement, teams were not required to offer arbitration to their free agents until the latter part of November. For instance, last year the deadline was November 23. This year’s qualifying offer deadline was three weeks earlier.

Craig has a thorough run-down of free agency here while Matthew ranked his top 50 free agents here.

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.