Astros release one-time top prospect Brett Wallace

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Brett Wallace, who ranked as one of Baseball America‘s top 40 prospects in back-to-back seasons as a minor leaguer, has been released by the Astros after hitting just .242 with a .704 OPS in 311 games through age 26.

At one point Wallace looked like a good-hitting third baseman, but his defense required a shift to first base and his bat simply never developed enough for him to be an asset there. As a prospect he was a major piece in three big trades–including being the centerpiece of the Cardinals-A’s deal for Matt Holliday–but when exposed to the waiver wire by the Astros recently he passed through after going unclaimed by all 29 other teams.

Wallace could latch on somewhere as a bench player, but if not he’ll sign a minor-league deal and head back to Triple-A for a sixth season after hitting .308 with an .875 OPS in 375 games already.

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.