Matt Williams has no plans to tone down Bryce Harper

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From Chase Hughes of CSNWashington.com:

[New manager Matt] Williams can’t praise Harper enough for the edge he brings and does not plan to temper it too much. He wants to find the happy medium.

“I love it, I love the way he plays the game. He plays the game the way it should be played,” Williams said. “He is all-out, every day, all the time, every game. He’s paid for it by getting injured and running into walls.”

Williams was hired last week to replace Davey Johnson, who will transition into a front office consulting role over the offseason.

“I’m here to help him,” Williams said of the 21-year-old Harper, who hit .274/.368/.486 with 20 homers and 71 runs scored in 2013. “I’m here to help him become the MVP and a Hall of Fame player. I want that for him. I want him to be that guy. I want him to be our leader. I want him to be the star that everybody wants him to be.”

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.