Brian wrote:Assessing which 'mystery teams' may actually be in on Harper and/or Machado
Jan. 17: As the offseason drags on and Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain unsigned, the door will stay open for more teams to jump into the race, especially if there's a sense that the price to sign them may not be as high as many initially expected.
In an article for ESPN+ (subscription required) on Thursday, Buster Olney listed some of the so-called "mystery teams" that are drawing speculation from industry insiders and broke down each club's chances of signing one of this offseason's superstar free agents.
Olney is hearing the Astros, Giants and Braves being mentioned as potential suitors for Harper; the Yankees and Padres as possible contenders for Machado; and the Rangers, Twins and Cubs as three teams that could sign either player.
Olney thinks most of these clubs will continue to sit out of the proceedings, but he could see Houston entering the mix for Harper if the slugger is willing to accept a shorter-term deal with opt-outs. The Astros nearly acquired Harper before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline this past season, but the Nationals backed out. As Olney points out, the team is in win-now mode, especially with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole set to enter free agency next offseason.
"They've got the money, for sure," said one rival official.
The Astros seemingly have their starting outfield set after signing Michael Brantley, but Harper would represent a massive upgrade in right field over Josh Reddick, who recorded a .718 OPS in 2018.
Olney concedes that it might seem odd to have the Yankees as a potential mystery team for Machado, as they were one of three clubs -- along with the Phillies and White Sox -- to meet with him in December. But with Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu in the fold, New York is not aggressively pursuing Machado at this time. That could change, though, if Machado's asking price falls into a range that the Yankees are more comfortable with.
I find it amazing that any writer is still mentioning the Cubs as a possibility after everything that has been written and said.