Will Venable agrees to two-year deal with Padres

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Will Venable was already under team control through 2015, but Corey Brock of MLB.com reports the Padres have signed the outfielder to a two-year, $8.5 million deal that buys out his final two seasons of arbitration eligibility.

Venable didn’t debut until age 25 and didn’t become a regular until age 27, so he’s old for a player with his level of service time. Which is why it wouldn’t have made much sense for the Padres to go past two more seasons with a good but not great player who’s already 30.

Venable is having a career-year, hitting .273 with 20 homers, 15 steals, and an .818 OPS in 129 games and this way the Padres get some cost certainty. He’s making $2.68 million this year.

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.