The Tigers grand bullpen experiment — which really isn’t a closer-by-committee thing — will apparently not last indefinitely:
Valverde will not join the big club immediately, Reusse reports. He’ll presumably go to Lakeland to throw some and then, eventually, find his way to Toledo. And if the Phil Coke/Joaquin Benoit follies continue, Papa Grande — who saved 35 games last year but proved unreliable down the stretch and ultimately lost his job in the playoffs — will be dancing his way across a diamond near you soon.
But the Tigers need to act on him soon: his contract has an opt-out clause dated May 5. Meaning if Valverde is not on the big club by then, he becomes a free agent again.
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.