Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe passes this report along in his always-info-packed weekly Sunday notes column:
Kendrys Morales, 1B/DH, free agent — Morales fits what the Pirates need, a first baseman/middle of the order hitter. There’s mutual interest, but while the Pirates would love him on the right contract, they may also pursue a first baseman via trade. There are a few possible candidates, including the Mets’ Ike Davis, Toronto’s Adam Lind, Texas’s Mitch Moreland, and even Seattle’s Justin Smoak and Boston’s Daniel Nava and Mike Carp.
It’s been a sluggish winter for Morales, who declined a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Mariners in November thus tying himself to draft pick compensation. The 30-year-old batted .277/.336/.449 with 23 homers and 80 RBI last summer for Seattle, starting 121 games at DH and 31 at first base.
Pittsburgh lost Justin Morneau to free agency and could use a high-impact bat for first base, but the club would have to surrender its 2014 first-round draft pick to sign Morales and that makes a marriage unlikely given the success of the Bucs’ recent youth movement. Andrew McCutchen (2005), Pedro Alvarez (2008), Gerrit Cole (2011), and Neil Walker (2004) were all first-round selections.
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.