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Rumor: Dodgers may have become frontrunner to land Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper, Dodgers

As Spring Training has sprung and the list of MLB free agents still on the market continues to shrink, Bryce Harper remains unsigned, and while the Philadelphia Phillies have been the frontrunner for awhile, the Los Angeles Dodgers have re-entered the conversation.

Harper’s courtship has been a persistent saga since early November, when the Washington Nationals reportedly offered a 10-year, $300 million deal to keep their homegrown slugger around.

But given that it was the first month of free agency, Harper and his agent Scott Boras almost immediately declined the offer, hoping that Harper’s value would be somewhere closer to $40 million AAV over the course of a long-term deal.

Harper may in fact be the biggest beneficiary of the recent signing of Manny Machado (10-year, $300 million deal with the San Diego Padres) and the extension handed to Nolan Arenado by the Colorado Rockies (eight years and $255 million), who have suddenly cashed out in what appeared to be a depleted market.

The two likeliest destinations for Harper are Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The Phillies have been persistent in their desire to land Harper, while the Dodgers have been “in” and “out” on numerous occasions.

Yesterday, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the Phillies were close to finishing a deal for the 26-year-old slugger. However, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, there is growing concern in Philly that Harper could end up with the Dodgers if they are willing to offer something close to that of the Phillies’ offer:

Harper has been fairly insistent on wanting a long-term deal, while the Dodgers have only really floated offers in the range of four years and $140 million. Still, they have the future payroll flexibility to go deep on Harper, although the LA Times reported last fall that the team is hoping to stay under the luxury tax until 2022.

Many in the industry feel that Philadelphia’s inclusion of an opt-out in any contract is crucial to remaining the favorite to sign Harper.