It happens every off-season, teams get into a frenzied bidding situation for a high profile free agent. Just when we think we know who he is going to sign with- BAM! They strike out of nowhere! The mystery team!!!
You never believe it when they are mentioned in rumors. You scoff and mock the reporter who even suggests their presence. But then, lo and behold, that's who the free agent picks much like Albert Pujols chose the Angels, Prince Fielder chose the Tigers, Cliff Lee chose the Phillies. The list goes on and on. Like it or not, the mystery team is here to stay and once again positioned to play a major role.
No free agent is bigger this off-season than Zack Greinke and wherever their is a big free agent, there lurks a mystery team! Sure, they have yet to rear their ugly head, but with the Winter Meetings right around the corner, they are no doubt primed to strike.
So who will it be?
The Angels at one point were desperate to re-sign him but might now be backing off, though they might be bluffing. That leaves primarily the Rangers and the Dodgers, but really just the Dodgers because everyone assumes that when it comes down to crunch time, they are just going to hand Greinke a blank check. The Nationals are also though to be sniffing around Greinke. They've yet to show serious interest, but they've shown enough to be ineligible for the mystery team title.
Potential mystery teams
Could it be the Detroit Tigers? Once a mystery team, always a mystery team. Their payroll is already at a bloated $111 million for 2013, but owner Mike Ilitch has decreed that he will spend whatever it takes to win a World Series. He greenlit the covert signing of Prince Fielder after he got a taste of glory in the 2011 ALCS, so imagine what he'll do after losing in the World Series? The only question is whether or not adding another high-end starting pitcher trumps their many needs in the bullpen.
Could it be the Atlanta Braves? Greinke has expressed his preference for the Braves in the past, partly due to their proximity to where he grew up in Florida. The Braves also have the perfect incentive to keep their interest secret as they are normally conservative spenders and wouldn't want to signal to agents that they could bump up their budget, especially when they still have a lot of arbitration contracts to work out and roster holes to fill.
Could it be the Boston Red Sox? Lord knows that the Red Sox have the available payroll to land Greinke, but there have long been rumors that Greinke has no interest in Boston and vice versa. Still, Boston needs pitching in a major way and landing Greinke would be huge step forward for Boston returning to contender status.
Could it be the Baltimore Orioles? It has been a long time since the Orioles were viable mystery team candidates but after their surprising trip to the post-season, they seem primed for a comeback. They've even done typical mystery team things like pretending that they don't have a need to increase payroll, even though they almost certainly need to if they want to return to the playoffs in 2013.
Could it be the Milwaukee Brewers? They just traded Greinke because they didn't think they could afford to re-sign him. What would be sneakier than trading a guy away and then swooping in to sign him again in the off-season? It's perfect really, expect for the part where he probably is actually going to be too expensive for them.
And the mystery team will be...
The Baltimore Orioles, but they probably won't actually land Greinke since they are still the Orioles and since the Dodgers still have that blank check standing by. What pushes the Orioles over the top for mystery team status is their owner, Peter Angelos. It wasn't long ago that Angelos was decried for being a megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur. The last few seasons, Angelos has been held at bay, but after tasting the post-season for the first time since 1997, all those bad habits could come bubbling to the surface again. The Yankees are reining in their spending, the Red Sox are down, the Blue Jays are making noise for their big spending. It is lining up perfectly for Angelos to see an opportunity for his beloved O's to make a big move to leapfrog the idling Yankees and Red Sox but with the extra incentive to act fast so that Toronto doesn't beat Baltimore to it. It's going to be great to have the old, misguided Orioles back.