Cliff Lee had a mystery team once, and he signed with that mystery team in December 2010.
Remember? The Yankees and Rangers pursued Lee the entire offseason, and everybody expected him to choose between the two. But the Phillies engaged Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker during the Winter Meetings about a possible deal. Former general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. shortly thereafter got former president David Montgomery to sign off on the pursuit — former Phillies general manager Pat Gillick and assistant general manager Scott Proefrock helped convince Montgomery to go for it — and they signed Lee the following week to a five-year, $120 million contract.
The news stunned everybody.
It is possible there are mystery teams pursuing free-agent superstar Bryce Harper, like the Phillies pursued Lee, but good fits have been difficult to find. Still, there continue to be reports that Harper’s agent Scott Boras is meeting with multiple teams about the outfielder. So far the only team to emerge from these reported meetings is the Phillies. Phillies managing partner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas on Friday to meet with Harper and his wife, Kayla. Middleton also met with Boras before he hopped on his jet and returned to Florida on Saturday night.
The Phillies never struck an agreement with Harper before Middleton left town, but they are making progress.
But if private jets from multiple owners are lined up on the tarmac at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport, who’s most likely there? We take a stab at the Phillies’ potential competition:
Nationals: Nationals owner Mark Lerner told NBC Sports Washington on Friday that they have “moved on” from Harper, although he added a caveat that “the door’s cracked a little bit.” Boras would love the Lerners to change their minds and pressure the Phillies to increase their offer, but the feeling in Nationals camp is that it’s unlikely. That said, if the Phillies have concerns about a team surprising them at the last second, it is probably the Nationals.
Giants: San Francisco could make a mega-deal commitment, especially after signing a new naming rights agreement with Oracle. The Giants were willing to take on Giancarlo Stanton’s massive contract last offseason, until the Yankees acquired him. But so far they have been interested in a short-term deal, which Harper is unlikely to accept.