These are exciting times for Mystery Team.

On Friday, we learned that the White Sox and Phillies, the presumptive front-runners to acquire All-Star free agent Manny Machado, were facing an uphill battle. Not only had another bidder emerged in the Machado sweepstakes, said bidder had also submitted the highest bid to date. That bidder, of course, was Mystery Team.

There are a few things you should know about Mystery Team. The first thing you should know is that Mystery Team has been in on every single big-name free agent since Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally challenged the reserve clause and became MLB's first batch of free agents, back in 1975. Since that day, Mystery Team has entered the bidding for hundreds of top-of-the-line players.

The sequence of events always unfolds in one of two ways.

In the first scenario, big-name player files for free agency. Some number of teams expresses interest in big-name player. The obliging members of the media happily report that interest. Then, a lull occurs. In the middle of that lull, big-name player's agent's sixth cousin (twice removed) tips a reporter off that there is, in fact, another party ready to bid for big-name player. That other party is highly motivated, has tons of cash to spend, and won't take no for an answer. It is, of course, Mystery Team.

The second scenario develops exactly the same way, except for one key difference. Instead of big-name player's agent's sixth cousin (twice removed) leaking the breathtaking news that Mystery Team wants in, it's someone else. In this case, it's actually the general manager of the most aggressive suitor's arch rival that just happens to let slip that Mystery Team is extremely interested.

A more cynical person would see a big-name player's agent (or his sixth cousin, twice removed) or the GM of a rival team talking up Mystery Team and wonder if he might have ulterior motives. Nonsense, we say. Mystery Team is real, and its offer is always spectacular.

But just for the sake of argument, let's say that bringing up Mystery Team is nothing more than a negotiation ploy by other interested parties. Could you really blame them? The highest bid made public so far for Machado is a seven-year, $175 million offer by the White Sox. Machado's agent Dan Lozano blasted reports of that offer as "inaccurate" and "reckless."

Giancarlo Stanton, a terrific power hitter whose overall game doesn't approach Machado's (Machado dwarfs Stanton in Wins Above Replacement over the past four seasons) is playing on a contract worth almost twice as much as that supposed $175 million White Sox offer. Lozano's client is a durable star in his mid-20s who rakes, plays excellent defense, and who many observers believed could challenge or beat Stanton's record $325 million deal, yet here we are. Meanwhile, Lozano's also locked in a competition with superagent Scott Boras, whose own client Bryce Harper has also been rumored in the past to be a candidate to set the new all-time record for biggest contract in baseball.

Making matters worse for Lozano's client is a murderers' row of possible reasons to explain why no team has stepped up with the kind of premium offer the baseball world long expected.

Today's GMs are just really, really, really smart and risk-averse, we're told. No wait, maybe it's that Machado has a bad attitude, as evidenced by his infamous "Johnny Hustle" comment during the World Series. Maybe it's just that not trying to win for a few years has become an acceptable, even admired tactic, prompting gobs of teams to lay down their arms and not bid on a ham sandwich, let alone a marquee free agent. Or maybe, as another agent recently claimed, it's that teams are flat out colluding against players in an effort to drive down salaries. Could you blame Lozano, or a distant relative, if he were to plant a few Mystery Team seeds out there?

Or let's say you're the Nationals. Your big divisional rival's owner has said he's prepared to spend money, "and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it." That owner has Machado at the top of his team's shopping list. Could you blame the Nats for sprinkling a little Mystery Team pixie dust out there? Ah, but that division rival is also interested in a player Washington likes, with both clubs rumored to be after Harper. So maybe it's another hungry division rival trying to sow chaos by invoking multiple Mystery Teams that could be in on both Machado and Harper.

If anything, we might need more Mystery Teams to move the market along.

Craig Kimbrel reportedly sought a six-year, $100 million deal heading into this offseason, only to see his list of most likely suitors dry up in a hurry, with his former employers going so far as to publicly exclaim that they will not be spending significant money on a closer. Dallas Keuchel is the top starting pitcher left on the market, but teams that could make sense as destinations for his services are publicly swatting away his demands for a long-term deal lasting five seasons or more. Meanwhile, A.J. Pollock might simply have to sit and wait for the Harper market to resolve itself before anyone offers anything. Given that Harper's agent is the notoriously deliberate Boras, that could mean waiting until the eve of spring training -- or maybe Christmas of 2029.

In a world in which MLB keeps setting new revenue records, yet player salaries actually go down, could you blame other players for wondering why teams are suddenly, apparently, destitute? Maybe the sixth cousin of Evan Longoria or Kris Bryant is the one spreading rumors about Mystery Teams, realizing that their kin, as well as younger players just coming up, could get far less than they deserve as owners manipulate fans' opinions.

Hell, if MLBPA executive director Tony Clark……...'s mailman started speculating about Mystery Teams, could you blame him?