Pirates “continue to monitor” the Mets’ Ike Davis

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The Pirates got an underwhelming .768 OPS from the first base position in 2013 and lost Justin Morneau this winter to free agency. If the 2014 season started today, Gaby Sanchez and his .258/.337/.417 career batting line would be Pittsburgh’s primary option at baseball’s most premium offensive position. And that’s not ideal.

According to Jayson Stark at ESPN.com, the Pirates “continue to monitor” Mets first baseman Ike Davis, who is competing for a starting job this spring with Lucas Duda. The Bucs have been linked recently to free agent Kendrys Morales, but Stark says there “doesn’t seem to be much substance” to those rumors. Justin Smoak or Mitch Moreland could become trade targets for the Bucs depending on how the Nelson Cruz shoe drops.

Davis batted just .205/.326/.334 last season for New York, but he slugged 32 home runs in 2012 and registered .925 OPS in 149 plate appearances the season before that. The 26-year-old former first-round pick has much more upside than Sanchez, who will turn 31 years old at the end of this upcoming summer.

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.