You're more than welcome to believe or not believe in the idea of the "mystery team." But accounts of the reported existence of such mysterious teams are growing in the previously down-to-two Manny Machado sweepstakes.
We all thought this was down to the White Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies — and maybe it still is — two teams with financial flexibility and visions of a bright future vying for the 26-year-old superstar, one of the two biggest names on this winter's free-agent marker and one of the best players in baseball.
The White Sox have made their offer. As for how rich it is and how long it is, it seems to depend on who you're talking to at any given moment. Our Chuck Garfien reported last week that it's fewer than eight years in length and worth "less than what's being reported." At the time, that latter descriptor seemed to mean less than the $250 million reported by ESPN's Jeff Passan. But then came a report from ESPN's Buster Olney that the offer was worth $175 million over seven years. Machado's agent, Dan Lozano, didn't like that one bit and released a formal statement calling the report "reckless."
And so now we have a new flurry of reports pointing to the involvement — perhaps heavy involvement — of a mysterious mystery team.
Let's start on Friday, when Machado's dad told Hector Gomez that in addition to the White Sox — who prior to this had the only reported offer on the table for Machado — the Phillies, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers have all made offers.
That raised more than a few eyebrows, considering the Yankees appeared to be out of the derby after acquiring a pair of free-agent infielders in Troy Tuolwitzki and D.J. LeMahieu and were spending money elsewhere, notably on giving themselves the most terrifying bullpen in baseball. And this was the first mention anywhere of the Dodgers, the team Machado played for during the second half of last season, going all the way to the World Series. But he was only a Dodger because of an injury to shortstop Corey Seager. The Dodgers no longer need a replacement with Seager back, and they don't need a third baseman with Justin Turner at the hot corner. So where exactly would Machado play if he stayed in L.A.?
And then came the mystery team. According to Fancred's Jon Heyman, there exists a mystery team, and it's possible that team is the current high-bidder.
Have heard there is indeed a mystery team in Manny derby, and also recently heard that team had the high bid (impression also was that the surprise team wasn’t necessarily his preferred landing spot but maybe $ will decide) https://t.co/Im9JgVyPWQ— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 19, 2019
And Mr. Machado agrees.
SNY's Andy Martino had some more details, saying Machado is still having meetings and met with at least one mystery team in recent days. He said the mystery team is not the Yankees, though they have "kept an open line of communication" with Machado's people and aren't out. He's also eliminated the Atlanta Braves.
OK. So where does that leave us? The Machado sweepstakes could be bigger than we thought it was just a few days ago, with another team or more entering the bidding and perhaps able to top the White Sox reported offer — however close to $175 million or $200 million it might be.
The Phillies, as is the case with the White Sox, are still in pursuit of the other huge name on the free-agent market, Bryce Harper. The "spend stupid" Phillies could be trying to create a baseball version of the Miami Heat and lure both guys to the City of Brotherly Love. That would be an expensive proposition, of course. But the Phillies' pursuit of both guys could be what's throwing a wrench into this whole process.
But it's also likely that Lozano is looking for a bigger contract offer than the one(s) Machado currently has. After all, the expectations at the beginning of the offseason were that Machado and Harper could both receive record-breaking deals. There was talk of a $400 million contract or two. There were expectations of heavy competition for two of the best players in the game, both of whom are just 26 years old and firmly in their primes. That's not how it's played out, though, with just two or three teams in on both players. And while Harper reportedly turned down a $300 million contract offer from the Washington Nationals, if Machado's biggest offer is south of $200 million, that is shocking in comparison to those early expectations, regardless of how good it might be for the team that could get him to sign such an offer.
The White Sox seem to remain in good position to actually win this thing. They have made their offer, while it's unclear if other teams have or haven't. They have a strong pitch of Machado as the centerpiece playing alongside Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Luis Robert and others for the better part of the next decade. They can offer what no other team can in the opportunity to play alongside Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay, two of Machado's good friends from Miami and, in Alonso's case, his brother-in-law.
Machado supposedly prefers to play for the Yankees, though as Martino reports it's still unlikely there's a match there. Martino has also reported that Machado will take the biggest contract offer out there, and so the waiting could be because his agent thinks he can get a bigger one. Whether the biggest offer ends up coming from the White Sox, the Phillies, the Yankees or the mysterious bidder behind Door No. 4 (during the week, we had some thoughts on who that might be, by the way) remains to be seen.