Nationals interested in free agent Grant Balfour

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The Orioles scrapped a two-year, $15 million pact with free agent right-hander Grant Balfour after a pre-signing physical revealed some previously-undiscovered issues in the reliever’s wrist and knee.

But Balfour shouldn’t be out of work much longer.

According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the 36-year-old native of Sydney, Australia is now drawing interest from the Nationals, who could be looking to trade Drew Storen in the coming weeks.

Rafael Soriano is expected to serve as Washington’s closer in 2014 and Tyler Clippard will be the setup man. Balfour would slide into the seventh-inning role if Storen, whose price is rising in arbitration, is moved.

Balfour posted an outstanding 2.56 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 144 strikeouts in 137 1/3 innings over his final two seasons (2012-2013) with the Oakland A’s. He also saved 62 games in 67 attempts.

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.