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5 teams that could surprise at Winter Meetings

MLB.com @RichardJustice

LAS VEGAS -- Some team is going to surprise us this week. Just watch. There's going to be a trade or a signing that stops conversations dead in their tracks. All the ingredients are there. Like one of those huge storm systems roiling over the Pacific.

We don't get that much anymore. Rumors, gossip and speculation leak out by the hour. Madison Bumgarner is going here, Paul Goldschmidt is headed there. So many things are discussed that the power to truly surprise is reduced.

LAS VEGAS -- Some team is going to surprise us this week. Just watch. There's going to be a trade or a signing that stops conversations dead in their tracks. All the ingredients are there. Like one of those huge storm systems roiling over the Pacific.

We don't get that much anymore. Rumors, gossip and speculation leak out by the hour. Madison Bumgarner is going here, Paul Goldschmidt is headed there. So many things are discussed that the power to truly surprise is reduced.

By the time Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz were actually traded from the Mariners to the Mets it almost felt like old news. But these Winter Meetings have a different dynamic. We know a bunch of teams are all-in to win in 2019. We also know a significant number of teams are in a rebuild mode. But the fascinating part is that there are a large number of teams on the fence, all of them willing to consider something big.

With that in mind, let's look at five that could pull off a deal that would shock the baseball world:

1. White Sox
They could sign either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. Yes, it would be a surprise. Yes, it also makes sense. If you're not bullish on this franchise, you haven't been paying attention. General manager Rick Hahn has done a tremendous job stockpiling young talent. In that way, the White Sox are where the Braves, Astros, Cubs and Royals were at different points in recent years. Winning seems inevitable. So with gobs of young talent and a low payroll, it's the perfect team to go grab Harper or Machado off the free-agent market. They'd give the franchise a superstar to build around while also providing a veteran to assist the young players in preparation, etc. In short, perfect fit.

Video: Teams preparing to make pitches to Harper, Machado

2. Rays
They seem like the perfect team to, say, sign Nelson Cruz and trade for Bumgarner and force us to suddenly look at the American League East differently. Few teams have the power to surprise like this one. With a projected payroll of around $32 million and a team that just won 90 games, Tampa Bay is thinking big in its search for a hitter and starting pitcher. Cruz has averaged 34 home runs over the past 10 seasons, including 37 last season when he turned 38. He surely would consider a one-year deal. If the Giants are serious about dealing their ace, the Rays are a team with enough prospects to make it happen, and because Bumgarner is in the final year of his contract, there'd be no long-term commitment.

3. Brewers
Machado? Why not? GM David Stearns has some experience in this kind of thing, having acquired Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain in one day last offseason. Now fresh off a 96-win season, with a motivated fan base and a fearless owner in Mark Attanasio, the Brewers, working under the radar for most of this offseason, have a window open in which they're capable of winning a World Series. They're the perfect team to surprise.

4. Cardinals
Goldschmidt was their headline offseason acquisition. Now the Cardinals are shopping for bench and bullpen help. Or are they? They've closed the gap on the Brewers and the Cubs in the National League Central, but the job isn't done. Remember, St. Louis entered this offseason all but saying it was thinking big. The Cards did that last year by attempting to deal for Giancarlo Stanton, who went to the Yankees. Goldschmidt is a big name, a big player. But Harper or Machado would elevate the Cardinals even more.

5. Padres
One year after signing Eric Hosmer to the biggest deal of the offseason -- $144 million over eight years -- San Diego remains a team to watch. Like the White Sox, the Padres are flush with young talent and motivated to turn a corner in the NL West. While we're all but penciling in Harper and Machado to the Yankees, Phillies, etc., the Padres are more than capable of grabbing one of them and changing the power dynamic in their division.

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.

Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays