Bryce Harper
The Philadelphia Phillies are said to be the front-runners to sign Bryce Harper this offseason. In this picture, Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals reacts after a swinging strike two against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois, Aug. 12, 2018. Jon Durr/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Phillies have made huge strides in their pursuit of the two most wanted free agents in baseball at the moment – Bryce Harper and Manny Machado – and are said to be confident that they will land at least one of the two players before spring training gets underway in February.

The Phillies had their first face-to-face meeting with Harper on Saturday and it was reported to have gone on for five hours with owner John Middleton confirming that it was a "very positive" meeting.

They have been installed as favorites to sign Harper after the meeting and according to Fancred’s John Heyman, a contract offer is likely on its way to the player. The right-fielder and his agent Scott Boras are looking for a record-setting deal north of $300 million and the Phillies are among the teams that are able to afford to get close to his demand.

The Washington Nationals, Harper’s former team, are still in the hunt and already have a 10-year $300 million offer that was initially turned down on the table. And due to his cordial relationship with the front office, they are expected to always be an option for the outfielder.

Machado was touted as the Phillies preferred choice up until the meeting on Saturday, with reports now indicating that they are tilting toward a move for Harper. The Chicago White Sox is the other major player in the race for the two in-demand free agents, but they seem to be tilted toward Machado, with reports suggesting they have made an offer for seven-years worth around $210 million to the player.

After what looked to be muddy waters in terms of the teams interested and pursuing Harper coming into the New Year – the chase is taking clear shape with Phillies now probably ahead of Nationals in the race for the right-fielder’s signature. The White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers are also said to be in the race, but are yet to make concrete moves.

Meanwhile, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that the Phillies are not ready to stop even if they sign Harper as they are targeting further additions from the free agent market. They are said to be keen to sign pitchers Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel.

Kimbrel, is a seven-time All-Star and became the youngest player in MLB history to record 300 saves and has played for the Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres and the Boston Red Sox. He achieved this feat during his World Series-winning campaign with the Red Sox in 2018.

Keuchel, on the other hand, has played his entire MLB career with the Houston Astros. The left-handed starting pitcher is ranked seventh in CBS Sports’ top-50 free agents available in 2019, while Kimbrel is ranked 12th, making them good additions to add to Harper’s arrival for the Phillies.