Regardless of which reports you may have read over the weekend, the Bryce Harper free agency saga is expected to end very soon. While USA Today's Bob Nightengale tweeted on Saturday night that the Philadelphia Phillies are hopeful about signing Harper to a 10-year contract by Monday afternoon, a report from ESPN suggested a greater likelihood that everything would be finalized by Tuesday. In any case, there could be a few "mystery teams" lurking in the shadows and hoping to offer a better deal than the Phillies, and MLB.com listed all these possible teams in a report published Sunday.
Writing for MLB.com, Todd Zolecki prefaced his list of Bryce Harper "mystery teams" by recalling the case of former MLB pitcher Cliff Lee, who was mainly courted by the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers for several weeks after the 2010 MLB season ended. Instead of joining either of those teams, Lee signed with the Phillies, who were ironically the mystery team that surprised fans by landing the star pitcher.
With that said, Zolecki noted that the Los Angeles Dodgers now appear to be "back in play" for Harper, considering how several team officials were spotted in the 26-year-old outfielder's hometown of Las Vegas on Sunday. As the Dodgers traded several players, including outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, to the Cincinnati Reds in December, the team was once among the heaviest favorites to sign Harper. But with the aforementioned sighting taken into account, Zolecki hinted that the Dodgers might not be done retooling their outfield after all.Likewise, Zolecki speculated that the Washington Nationals, whom Harper had played for since his rookie season in 2012, might change their mind mere days after principal owner Mark Lerner said that they've "moved on" from the six-time All-Star right fielder.
"If the Phillies have concerns about a team surprising them at the last second, other than the Dodgers, it is probably the Nationals," he wrote.
Like the Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres had previously been top contenders in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes. However, the Giants' reluctance in offering Harper a long-term deal and the Padres' greater focus on "longshot" free agent pitcher Dallas Keuchel were mentioned as variables that reinforce how slim their chances are right now of signing the superstar outfielder.
Lastly, the Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, and St. Louis Cardinals were mentioned among the possible "mystery teams" vying for Harper's services, though Zolecki also stressed that these three teams appear to be among the bigger longshots at this point. To back this up, he brought up how the White Sox were only able to offer eventual Padres signee Manny Machado an eight-year, $250 million contract, how the Astros, like most teams, can only afford to sign Harper to a short-term deal, and how there have been "no indications" that the Cardinals are "remotely involved" in the chase for the former No. 1 MLB draft pick.