RED FREAKING ALERT. Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports put his reputation on the line with his most recent piece: Bryce Harper will sign with the Phillies. You can bank on it. To clarify, Nightengale doesn’t list a specific source, nor does he list any contract details. The article stands presumably as an opinion piece, though by his logic, the Phillies are the only team that makes sense.

“The free agent outfielder, touted to be more popular than the Liberty Bell, looks to be headed to Philadelphia, the city of Brotherly Love.”

After citing the leak that Harper reportedly turned down a 10-year, $300 million contract in September from the Washington Nationals, Nightengale went down the checklist of other interested parties:

“The Chicago Cubs don’t want to spend the money unless someone takes Jason Heyward or Yu Darvish off their hands.

The Los Angeles Dodgers don’t have interest.

The St. Louis Cardinals don’t have bright lights.

The San Francisco Giants are changing course.

It leaves one team for Harper, which won’t mind giving him at least $400 million.

The Phillies are the most desperate team to land a star, and with Machado wanting to go to the New York Yankees, and the Yankees having the greatest need for him, Philadelphia is the logical destination for Harper.”

Hold the phone a second. At least $400 million?!

I figured the deal would be around $38 million per year, but $40 million? I know it’s a difference of two million dollars per season, but think of the precedent that sets. Sure, the guy slugged 34 HR and 100 RBI, but on a .249 batting average. I know many argue that using traditional counting stats as the only rationale for building an argument is a lazy case to make. I think anyone would be insane to argue that Harper wouldn’t be a vast improvement in the Phillies’ lineup.

Back to Bob. He went on to cite baseball insiders from within the industry:

“It’s hard to find an executive, scout, or rival agent who doesn’t believe that Harper will eventually sign with the Phillies, maybe a month from now when he can drive from his Las Vegas home to Mandalay Bay and make the official announcement himself.”

Again, this isn’t a report that a deal has been negotiated and agreed to, but when someone with Nightengale’s reputation puts out a piece with this level of confidence, you have to think there’s fire creating the smoke.

“The Phillies aren’t blinking.

This is the player they want.

This is the player they’re going to get.”

Let’s hope so.

For more on the Phillies and their pursuit of free agents including Bryce Harper, go check out Crossed Up: A Phillies Podcast with Bob and Anthony. Please subscribe on ([iTunes] [Google Play] [Stitcher] [RSS]), leave a 5 star review, and follow them on Twitter: @AntSanPhilly @BWCrossingBroad