Mystery teams have all the fun. Or sometimes, it seems that way. Lots of attention, zero risk. What a life. Every offseason, one or two of them lurk in the shadows poking around on the edges of free agency.Just when you think your favorite team is on the verge of
Mystery teams have all the fun. Or sometimes, it seems that way. Lots of attention, zero risk. What a life. Every offseason, one or two of them lurk in the shadows poking around on the edges of free agency.
Just when you think your favorite team is on the verge of signing a great player, a mystery team emerges and sends everyone back to the negotiating room. You may ask yourself if they really exist.
Sure they do. Some of the largest contracts ever given to free agents, from Zack Greinke (D-backs) and Eric Hosmer (Padres) to Alex Rodriguez (Rangers) and Robinson Cano (Mariners), came via mystery teams.
Now, with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado still unsigned, we're hearing more and more about mystery teams. Right when we think we've got things figured out -- for instance, Machado to the Yankees, Harper to the Nationals -- there's renewed talk of a mystery team.
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After extensive research, I believe I can identify this offseason's five mystery teams. If Harper or Machado actually wind up with one of these clubs, remember, you heard it here first.
Things have been entirely too quiet around the Giants. Some of it is new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi putting together a front office staff and assessing his needs. Since he has not traded away Madison Bumgarner, his most valuable asset, that could be a tipoff that the Giants aren't diving into any kind of rebuild. What they need more than anything is an impact offensive player or two, preferably an outfielder. Signing Harper would insert the Giants back into the postseason conversation and also give the franchise a foundational piece to build on for the next decade or so.
The Rangers are a logical landing spot for either Machado or Harper with the opening of new Globe Life Field scheduled for Opening Day 2020. In addition, the organization needs a new face-of-the-franchise-type player with Adrian Beltre having retired. Having had back-to-back sub-.500 seasons for the first time in a decade, a big-name signing would be symbolic of a new era.
The Padres appear to be close to turning a major corner with waves of young talent on the threshold of the Major Leagues, including MLB Pipeline's No. 2 overall prospect, shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. The Padres also have more highly touted young pitching than almost anyone. Stealing Hosmer off the free-agent market last offseason signaled that the rebuild is almost over. To add Harper would go a long way toward getting the Friars back in the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
The Astros understand their window for winning another World Series is wide open for perhaps only one more season, and team owner Jim Crane has said he's prepared to spend big. President of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow has seen the impact of adding star players -- Justin Verlander in 2017, and Gerrit Cole last offseason. To acquire a left-handed-hitting right fielder -- that would be Harper -- might make the Astros favored to win their second World Series in three seasons.
How about two impact bats? The Cardinals got one when they traded for Paul Goldschmidt, and while that's a great addition, there's probably some more work to do to get them to the top of the NL Central. Either Harper or Machado would do just that. They've already got a crowded outfield depth chart, and Paul DeJong is solid at short. But the opportunity to add a 26-year-old superstar does not come along very often.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.