By now, we should know better than to bet against the mystery team. That team always seems to walk away with the biggest prize in free agency these days.
Prince Fielder and agent Scott Boras shocked nearly everyone today by agreeing to a nine-year, $214 million deal with Detroit – not Texas or Seattle or Chicago or the other reported suitors. That comes on the heels of this offseason’s other monster deal, with slugger Albert Pujols at the center of a bidding war between St. Louis and Florida/Miami until he ultimately signed with a “mystery team” – the Los Angeles Angels — that swooped in late. Throw in Cliff Lee’s mysterious $120-million curveball – the Philadelphia Phillies — that caught the Yankees and Rangers looking with a late break.
It’s not just baseball, either. The big catch in NFL free agency after the lockout ended last summer was cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. He was ticketed for New York or Dallas or maybe Arizona, right up until he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. Another Philadelphia team — the NHL’s Flyers — proved to be the “mystery” destination last summer for free agent Jaromir Jagr, who was supposed to end up in Pittsburgh or Detroit.
So keep this in mind as the NFL gets ready for another free agency go-around in six weeks or so: Beware the mystery team.