Did you know that Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are still unsigned? Of course you did. That’s such a lame setup line. Sorry. I’ll try to delete it.
People say things like that, of course, because it’s very late in the offseason, and two of the best, youngest free agents to hit the market in the last decade remain unsigned, and, if you believe the bulk of reporting, they also remain un-pursued by all but a small handful of MLB teams. Under normal circumstances, this would all register as deeply surprising and deeply strange, but the new normal of the current CBA era is such that everything is pushed back in the offseason by several weeks, and the historically big spenders are no longer that, which further strains the market and timing for guys like Harper and Machado.
That is all to say, it no longer actually feels surprising that these guys still aren’t signed. It’ll happen eventually, but it doesn’t seem like anyone is tapping their cleats.
I’m sure there’s stuff happening behind the scenes, though, even as the rumor mill is mostly quiet. Heck, maybe that’s when there is definitely stuff happening behind the scenes. To that end, with rumors that there are multiple mystery teams in on Machado, MLBTR took a crack at trying to pin down which teams could plausibly be “mystery” teams for Machado, and it makes for an interesting read.
The Cubs are regarded as a team that could have a fit at shortstop, but for whom budgetary concerns credibly rule them out. Instead, the list of possible realistic mystery teams on Machado, in MLBTR’s estimation, goes just six deep: Angels, Mets, Padres, Twins … Brewers and Cardinals.
Those last two, of course, caught my eye for obvious reasons. Neither club has expressed an interest publicly in going into the $200+ million tier for a player this offseason, but it’s not impossible to see a surprise move if things get cheap.
On the Brewers, Machado would be an obvious fit (either at third base, or at shortstop if they decide to move on from relying on Orlando Arcia), but at such an enormous, long-term financial commitment … could the Brewers really do that? Even if so, they’d have to get their players on board with a guy they had considerable beef with in the postseason.
On the Cardinals, they certainly have the money, but they’d have to bump Kolten Wong from second base to accommodate Paul DeJong or Matt Carpenter while Machado plays shortstop or third base. It makes them better, for sure, but with big questions about how they’re going to spend their money after 2019 when so many free agents are slated to depart, it’s not clear they want to lock up a huge contract right now.
It’s hard to see Machado going to the Brewers or Cardinals. That’s kind of the nature of the “mystery team,” though. If the fit and the pursuit were obvious and public, they would be the White Sox and Phillies.
With Machado just 26 years old, whatever contract he lands, at least you’re getting him for prime years. Even on an eight-year deal, the final year of his contract will be his age 33 season. Matt Carpenter is 33. Josh Donaldson is 33. Evan Longoria is 33. Lorenzo Cain is about to turn 33. Yeah, maybe you can see the downswing of your career by that point, but that would be the FINAL YEAR of an eight-year contract.
There *should* be lots of mystery teams in on Machado.