Who is the mystery team?!?
There supposedly is one in the Manny Machado sweepstakes, going up against the White Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies. ESPN's Jeff Passan hinted at the presence of such a team in his report Sunday night — the one that said the White Sox have made an eight-year offer to the 26-year-old free-agent superstar, which has since been rebutted by a few other reports — and SNY's Andy Martino backed that up in his own report chronicling the New York Yankees' supposed out-ness Monday.
So in the event this mystery team doesn't come forward, we're left to guess which of baseball's other 28 teams it might be (28 because the White Sox and Phillies are not mysteries). Let's get to it. Because what else are we going to do while waiting for Machado to just announce where he's signing already?
Here are all 28 candidates, ranked from least likely to be the mystery team to most likely to be the mystery team.
28. Baltimore Orioles
Hahahaha, yeah Machado's going back to Baltimore. OK. The Orioles, who were atrocious last season with 115 losses, dealt Machado away right after the All-Star break. They are in severe rebuilding mode over there and are busy paying Chris Davis ... (looks up salary) ... $92 million for the next four seasons to bat .168. The Orioles are most definitely not the mystery team.
27. Tampa Bay Rays
Machado is very much out of the Rays' price range, even if they'd love a left-side infielder as they're currently starting Willy Adames and Matt Duffy at shortstop and third base. The only "mystery" involving the Rays is how this team almost made the playoffs last season.
26. Kansas City Royals
The Crowns? They're back in rebuilding mode after watching the Hosmer-Moustakas-Cain glory days turn to nothing as if Thanos' snap was limited to the intersection of I-70 and I-435. It's darn near impossible to see the famously small-market Royals commit hundreds of millions of dollars to one player as they appear to be entering another era of hoping to hit on high draft picks.
25. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers managed to win a couple more games than the White Sox last season, but their immediate future is mighty grim, with nothing but playing alongside an aging Miguel Cabrera to sell to any prospective free agent. The pitching staff could one day be quite good, with five Detroit pitching prospects ranked on MLB Pipeline's list of the top 100 in the game. But come on, Machado's not going to the Tigers.
24. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates are not the mystery team because they have no money because they are the Pirates. I understand that sounds mean, but when was the last time the Pirates made a big free-agent splash? Three of the four biggest free-agent deals in team history belong to pitchers who also played for the White Sox, and they aren't exactly All Stars: Francisco Liriano, Ivan Nova and Daniel Hudson. Teams whose fourth-ever biggest free-agent signing is Daniel Hudson don't sign Manny Machado.
23. Cincinnati Reds
One thing the Reds have is position players. They have Eduardo Suarez and Jose Peraza on the left side of the infield, where Machado plays, and don't even have room for Nick Senzel, one of the highest-rated prospects in baseball. They would love some pitching, but Machado is not a pitcher. The Reds might not be done spending this offseason — they've been tied on multiple occasions to Dallas Keuchel, still unsigned — but it's unlikely they'd make a run at attempting to sell Machado on a last-place team and the "glamour" of Cincinnati.
22. Seattle Mariners
Nope. No shot. They've traded away everyone this offseason in a Marlins-esque fire sale. Hopefully they've gotten better returns. But they've gone into something akin to rebuilding mode and now that they're finally out from under that monster Robinson Cano contract they're probably not going to take on another one.
21. Houston Astros
Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman. Yeah, no mystery team here.
20. Oakland Athletics
The A's don't really have a rep for landing top-of-the-market free agents, preferring typically to add with midseason trades. They're also focused on trying to keep their first-round draft pick from quitting baseball altogether, so they have other things on their plate right now. Boomer Sooner!
19. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Snakes are in sell-off mode. They traded Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals, they lost Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock to free agency, their two best remaining pitchers, Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray, could be on the move, too. It's tear-down time in the desert and tear-down time is not a time for Machado.
18. Cleveland Indians
The only players the Tribe apparently aren't talking about trading are the ones on the left side of their infield, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez. Cleveland's small-market woes when it comes to paying their very good starting pitchers might be worth it if it means they can keep paying their very good left-side infielders. Ramirez is under contract for quite a while, Lindor not so much. Machado? He's not one of those two guys.
17. Minnesota Twins
If Manny thought his visits to Chicago, New York and Philadelphia were kind of chilly after spending the second half of last season in Los Angeles, what in the world would be appealing about Minneapolis? The Twins got a real reality check a year after making the playoffs and don't really have a championship roster to sell. Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, two of the bigger young stars in baseball just a couple years ago, are projected to be at or near the bottom of their batting order.
16. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are seemingly trying to figure out a way to sign Craig Kimbrel without giving him too much money. They need some relief help regardless, and Machado can't really pitch. The defending champs have Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Rafael Devers at third and J.D. Martinez at DH and no room for Machado.
15. Colorado Rockies
Trevor Story is the Rockies' shortstop, and he's quite good. Nolan Arenado is the Rockies' third baseman, and he's quite good, as well. The Rockies do have some money thanks to the fact that they're finally done paying Mike Hampton. But they might want to focus on trying to keep Arenado in Denver (because he's only a .263 hitter outside of Colorado).
14. Miami Marlins
Machado is a Miami guy, and getting the opportunity to play for a team technically headquartered in the British Virgin Islands could provide some interesting financial draws. But the Fish are an offseason removed from trading away Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna. Not really in "buy" mode, are they? Though if Machado picks the Marlins, he'd figure to have a near guarantee that he'd be on a different team within a few years. That's just the way things go in South Florida.
13. Washington Nationals
Trea Turner is under team control for four more seasons. And even though Anthony Rendon is heading toward free agency next winter and could free up a spot at third base, the Nats reportedly want Bryce Harper, not Machado. They are not the mystery team. But I kind of wish they were. They could smuggle Machado into and out of Nats Park as one of the racing presidents. No one would know!
12. Los Angeles Dodgers
Machado was a rental for the Dodgers because they needed a fill-in after Corey Seager went on the shelf. With Seager back in action, no fill-in needed. Seager and Justin Turner live on the left side of that Dodger infield. The Dodgers are fine without Machado and not very mystery team-y at all.
11. Texas Rangers
The Rangers could really use a third baseman, and perhaps some big dollars could convince Machado to move from his reportedly preferred position of shortstop. They've rarely been shy in the spending department, the original Alex Rodriguez megadealers, but what is there to sell Machado on with this team? An extended stay at the bottom of the AL West doesn't seem terribly appealing.
10. San Francisco Giants
Speaking of teams rarely shy when it comes to spending, here are the Giants. While a new head of baseball ops in San Fran would probably like to put his stamp on the future of the franchise, doing so with Machado seems like it would strip the Giants of their flexibility moving forward. There are Madison Bumgarner trade rumors swirling, and that return package would be a nice starting point for a rebuild. Unless Machado can't get enough of the clam chowder in the bread bowl. I mean, man, I wouldn't blame him.
9. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brew Crew spent big last winter and already landed a big-name free agent this winter in Yasmani Grandal. Machado would be a heck of an addition to the Grandal-Cain-Yelich thing they've got going on up in Beer City, but the Brewers need pitching. And they're rumored to be looking for it in the form of Bumgarner. Point being, the Brewers might be moving on to the trade market rather than looking for big-time free agents.
8. Atlanta Braves
As much as the Braves would probably like to put further distance between themselves and the Phillies in the ultra-competitive NL East, the guess is they're not ready to give up on former No. 1 pick Dansby Swanson quite yet as he'll be only be 25 on Opening Day. The Braves have made their big splash already this winter with Josh Donaldson, and while it would be pretty cool to see Machado and Donaldson on the same side of the infield, the Braves are pretty well loaded as is.
7. Los Angeles Angels
The Angels love spending big dollars on guys, and they did so with Albert Pujols, another client of Machado's agent, Dan Lozano. The day is coming where they'll have to shell out probably the biggest contract in baseball history if they want to keep Mike Trout in Anaheim, meaning they'd be well served to save that money. But saving money has never been the Halos' jam — just ask Josh Hamilton, Gary Matthews Jr. or C.J. Wilson — and so maybe they want to convince Trout to stick around by adding another big name to the roster and building some semblance of a contender. Or maybe they want to get an insurance policy in case Trout bolts for Philly, where he'll have to spend far less money to catch Eagles games and see interesting weather. Machado knows all about L.A. after reaching the World Series with the Dodgers last season. Does the team that gave the world the Rally Monkey have another trick up its sleeves?
6. Chicago Cubs
Need a shortstop? Check. Have a history of spending big dollars? Check. Just last year made a huge free-agent signing late in the offseason? Check. Have a Machado "relative" in Albert Almora? Check. Uh oh, are the Cubs gonna steal Manny Machado away from the South Side? Probably not. They have such financial constraints they can't sign middle relievers right now, according to the reports. There's plenty of speculation that could change if certain players' free agency once more drags into February. But Theo Epstein has done pretty much nothing this winter because of the economics on the other side of town.
5. Toronto Blue Jays
Enter the Jays, the team Our Chuck Garfien believes is the mystery team. Could it be? Sure. They've got almost no non-Tulowitzki money on the books after the 2019 season and play in an uber-competitive division, one where Machado played for the bulk of the last seven years. Cutting Troy Tulowitzki loose — at the seemingly insane cost of nearly $40 million — gives them a need at shortstop. And think about the potentially amazing pairing of Machado and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. on the left side of that infield for the better part of the next decade. What's working against the team from the Great White North? Well, remember the Orioles? Yeah, they're a little better than them and also have to play the Yankees and Red Sox 38 times a season. Tough to win in that division, as Marcus Stroman noted (even if he was wrong about Machado going to the Yankees).
Machado is going to the Yankees. Yankees go out and get everyone. Red Sox are lethal. Rays are dangerous. Can never sleep on the Orioles. I’m going to the gym. Gonna be in my zone all year. Excited to compete in the best division in baseball! #ALEast— Marcus Stroman (@STR0) December 20, 2018
4. San Diego Padres
Barely .400 last season? Yes. Soon to be really, really good? Also yes. The Padres' farm system is extremely well stocked — led by the name that makes White Sox fans shudder, Fernando Tatis Jr. — with 10 top-100 prospects. Like South Side baseball fans, the Friars' faithful can plot out future rosters solely made up of homegrown names. But why not add an outside addition to that group? The aforementioned Eric Hosmer is already playing there, and will be for the next seven years, but he's one of the only players tying up any significant money on that team (Wil Myers is another). The Padres probably are even further away than the White Sox from being able to justify this kind of move at this point in a rebuilding effort, but they're about to be pretty good and Machado could make the future even brighter in San Diego. Plus, who would say no to living and working in San Diego? One problem: Tatis is a shortstop. Perhaps a big contract offer could convince Machado to slide back to third base.
3. St. Louis Cardinals
The Redbirds are really rolling the dice on 2019, as Goldschmidt and Ozuna are both slated to be free agents next winter. Do they add some long-term stability to that with Machado? They've got a lot of money tied up in the likes of Yadier Molina and Dexter Fowler and Andrew Miller in 2020, but the only player they have under a really long-term contract is a shortstop, Paul DeJong. No doubt, Machado could help the Cardinals win the NL Central in 2019. But they'd probably need him to play third base. But then where does Matt Carpenter play? Can DeJong play second? The Cards are probably motivated enough to be the mystery team, but they face a Yankee-esque infield crunch.
2. New York Mets
Step right up and meet the Mets, Manny. The Mets and new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen have been active this winter, adding two new infielders (Cano and Jed Lowrie), a new catcher (Wilson Ramos) and two big-name pieces at the back end of the bullpen (Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia). Bringing in Machado would not only give the Mets a cherry on top of their one-winter reshaping sundae, but it would take him away from the division-rival Phillies, who the Mets are jousting with to get into the NL East race alongside the Braves and Nationals. One of the Mets' top prospects is a shortstop, so they could be content to wait on him. But they could use a shortstop right now. It's not the Yankees. But is in New York. Watch out for those Mets. If they're the mystery team, someone try to find out if Jerry Seinfeld was part of the pitch team. "What's the deal with free agency? It's not free! It's the opposite of free! It should be called expensive agency!"
1. New York Yankees
Yes, the Yanks are supposedly out on Machado, but are they though? What an obvious answer to the mystery it would be if it's just the Yankees, who have been in on Machado all along. Their infield seems to be jam packed with players good enough to keep them from adding Machado, and the most recent addition to that group, free-agent D.J. LeMahieu, seemed to close the door on Machado to The Bronx. But the Yanks have always been big spenders and could move things around to find the best combo. They've got a great roster to pitch, and even though Martino reported Monday that Machado won't be taking a discount to play for the team he's always wanted to play for, perhaps the Yankees make the mysterious decision to up their offer. What a twist that would be. Though not as fun as those M. Night Shyamalan ones.