I am a total sucker for the ever-lurking, probably-exaggerated, possibly-omniscient MYSTERY TEAM.
In major and highly-visible negotiations, be they free agent or trade, it always seems the case that, by the time those negotiations are nearing a modicum of closure, the group of involved teams is more or less known, even if their specific level of involvement and seriousness are not widely known. But then, like masked superhero (or a fart on a crowded elevator, depending on your bent), the MYSTERY TEAM arrives to spice things up!
With Manny Machado’s and Bryce Harper’s free agency among the most highly-anticipated – and priciest – for years, I suppose it was always going to tricky for a true MYSTERY TEAM to enter the mix. These guys get courted very publicly, and there are only so many clubs that can realistically afford them.
To that end, we more or less “know” that the Machado market is down to the White Sox, Phillies, and Yankees, and the Harper market is down to the White Sox, Phillies, Nationals, Dodgers, and maybe Cubs.
Is that really it? Are there no surprises left around the corner? No pick-me-up from a cloaked figure?
NOT SO FAST, MY FRENT!
Per an industry source of the Sun-Times, “It’s gonna gain steam now, especially with Machado. I’m just curious to know the mystery teams. I’m guessing there will be one or two on each guy.”
Heck yeah, baby. I’m gonna cling to that like cheap antiperspirant in your pits.
In the most fun version of the world, you couldn’t even speculate about the identities of the MYSTERY TEAMS because they would be so surprising that you’d never believe it (kinda like when the Marlins came outta nowhere to be a major factor in the Albert Pujols race). The Rays want Harper?! The Myrtle Beach Pelicans are big on Machado?! Who knows! It’s all so MYSTERIOUS!
In all seriousness, because these pursuits are necessarily atypical – with owners reportedly meeting with agents without the GM’s knowledge, for example, and with White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf personally handling the negotiations, per that ST report – it does seem conceivable that there could be MYSTERY TEAMS, since information is not flowing in the usual directions.
To paraphrase Scott Boras on Bryce Harper, this is a submarine race, not a regatta. Maybe there are some MYSTERY SUBMARINES in the waters.
It’s fun to think about while we wait what could be a long process.
(For what it’s worth, no, I don’t think you could reasonable call the Cubs a “mystery team” on Harper, but they would certainly qualify on Machado. We have been given absolutely zero indication that the Cubs are in on Machado, however (though they were in on him in trade last year, that’s a different animal). That would mean, for the Cubs to be involved, they would have somehow had to keep their meeting(s) with Machado a total secret, even as the three others – with the White Sox, Yankees, and Phillies – were conducted very publicly. That would be strange, but I suppose they don’t call it “pretty obvious teams” for a reason. Nevertheless … I would not look for the Cubs to be a “mystery team” on anyone who isn’t a decent reliever this offseason.)