Phillies could be at a crossroads with Bryce Harper
The finish line looked to be almost in sight, but now it appears the Phillies will have some serious competition going down the home stretch if the franchise wants to ink megastar Bryce Harper to a contract.

Reports surfaced early on Monday indicating representatives from the Dodgers were in Las Vegas on Sunday meeting with Harper and his agent Scott Boras. The news came less than 24 hours after Phillies owner John Middleton returned to Florida after flying out to meet with the duo on Friday night.

It could be something, or it could be nothing.

The Phillies have looked to be the favorite to land Harper for weeks now, especially considering their financial flexibility and apparent willingness to offer a long term deal. However, the Dodgers have jumped into the fray with multiple sources believing the club could make a short term offer - something in the vicinity of four years - with an average annual value (AAV) near $35 million.

All things being equal, the edge here leans towards Los Angeles.

If he takes a short term deal Harper would have another shot at a large free agent contract within a few seasons. With the Dodgers he'll be playing close to home and has a legitimate shot to win the World Series with a team built to contend right now. The downside, and this is where Philadelphia could possess the difference maker, is it's not a guaranteed long-term deal.

Though nothing concrete is known, it's widely believed the Phillies understand it'll take something in the ballpark of 10 years and $330 million to get a deal done.

Harper and Boras entered the offseason wanting a long term deal, but the lure of Los Angeles and a higher AAV - though even for a shorter duration - may be the fatal blow to Middleton and the Phillies.

Middleton was seen by reporters entering the Phillies' complex in Clearwater earlier today, offering no comment when asked of his Friday meeting and the newest revelations involving Harper.

In an offseason that's been highlighted by talk of "stupid money" and securing a potential superstar, the Phillies find themselves in a precarious spot. The club, as constructed right now, is better than the product that was on the field at the end of last season, but given the excitement generated by Middleton's comments about the franchise willing to spend money, losing out on Harper at this point could be seen as catastrophic to a fanbase hungry for a superstar.

That finish line that looked close suddenly seems a bit further away today than it did yesterday.
Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

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