The Bryce Harper sweepstakes seem to be finally making some headway after the right-fielder’s meeting with the Philadelphia Phillies in Las Vegas on Saturday, with the team now emerging as the front-runners to land one of the most coveted free agent this offseason.

Harper has previously met with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox and his former team Washington Nationals, but it was his first face-to-face meeting with Phillies owner John Middleton and general manager Matt Klentak.

The only contact prior to this was during the winter meetings when the Phillies hierarchy apart from Middleton, met Harper’s agent Scott Boras. The encounter on Saturday was said to have lasted five hours with the team owner describing it “really positive”.

The Phillies have been on the trail of Manny Machado – the other sought-after free agent – with many reports suggesting that he was their main focus rather than Harper. However, MLB insider Todd Zolecki said their focus now could be shifting with Harper moving to the top of their wish list.

While Machado has an offer on the table from the Phillies, it still remains unclear if they made Harper an official offer on Saturday. But according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, an offer will soon be made as the Philadelphia franchise are now the clear-cut favorites to land the right-fielder over the Washington Nationals, who are the only team to thus far make an offer.

Bryce Harper The Phillies have now emerged as favorites to sign Bryce Harper. In this picture, Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals runs the bases before scoring against the Philadelphia Phillies during the first inning at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Aug. 22, 2018. Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Phillies owner Middleton has previously revealed that his team could spend a "stupid" amount of money this offseason to land their preferred targets and he seemed to be quite enamored with Harper after Saturday’s meeting. But he indicated that this meeting was all about getting to know each other rather than discussing terms of a potential deal.

"We got to understand the man," Middleton told 6ABC about Harper, as quoted on MLB.com. "We got to understand what he'd be like in the dugout, the clubhouse and the community. He and his wife are really an impressive young couple."

"It was really impressive to spend some time with him, get to know him better, answer his questions, and we got to ask some questions, learn about him, and I think that's a really important step in any negotiation is kind of understanding what the other party is looking for. And now we'll see where it takes us," general manager Klentak added.

However, despite their sudden interest in Harper, a move for Machado cannot be ruled out. The Phillies have no long-term financial commitments at the moment and if need be they have the power to sign both the players, which will make them serious contenders in the National League East.

Harper, meanwhile, is seeking a record-breaking contract worth north of $300 million over a 10-year period. It remains to be seen, which franchise will make an offer closest to his demands, and thus many are predicting that the saga could well be dragged into next month.