Nationals, Ian Desmond avoid arbitration with two-year deal

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Shortly after signing Jordan Zimmermann to a two-year contract the Nationals have done the same with shortstop Ian Desmond, avoiding arbitration.

Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com reports that Desmond will get $17.5 million for his final two seasons of arbitration eligibility, and can then become a free agent following the 2015 season.

Desmond has established himself as one of the best all-around shortstops in baseball, posting back-to-back 20/20 seasons while hitting a combined .286 with an .812 OPS in 288 games over the past two years.

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.