Free agent infielder Manny Machado can play shortstop and third, and he's coming off this level of season at the plate in 2018 ...
For his career, Machado owns an OPS+ of 121 across parts of seven big-league seasons. At age 26, Machado's also exceptionally young as six-year free agents go, and since he was traded during the 2018 season he wasn't eligible for a qualifying offer and thus won't cost his new team a compensatory draft pick.
For all those reasons, Machado is presently a coveted free agent and at some point this winter is going to sign for a lot of money. As for which team he'll forge a deal with, it's not likely to happen during the ongoing Winter Meetings ...
Manny Machado is doing the opposite of Bryce Harper and plans to visit teams in their city on his free agent tour— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 10, 2018
The obvious matter raised by this news: Which teams will be hosting Machado? Some answers ...
Yanks, White Sox and Phillies are 3 teams that will meet with Manny Machado. The 3 alleged mystery teams remain so.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 11, 2018
The Yankees may wind up trading third baseman Miguel Andujar this offseason, possibly as part of a deal that further bolsters the rotation. As well, shortstop Didi Gregorius is out until at least June after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Machado could man short until he's back (Machado prefers to stick at shortstop going forward), or he could replace Andujar at the hot corner. Meantime, Gleyber Torres could fill the hole at second base. Whatever the specifics, he's a fit in the Bronx.
The Phillies likely have more room in the budget than any other team, and indeed they have designs on Machado and Bryce Harper. Signing both seems unlikely, and in Harper's case it's not certain the interest is mutual (and the Phils' signing of Andrew McCutchen may signal they've moved on from Harper). Even after trading for Jean Segura, the Phillies have room for Machado. As for the White Sox, after a long rebuild they're looking for relevance in 2019 and possibly contention in the weak AL Central. Machado could fit in at third or at short if Tim Anderson is moved off the position. A position switch for Yoan Moncada, possibly to the outfield, could ease any infield logjam.
Those are all the known teams, but what about tantalizing trio of mystery teams that Jon Heyman mentions above? What follows is an exercise in speculation -- reasonably informed speculation, yes, but speculation all the same. Basically, this scribe is offering up educated guesses as to who those three mystery teams might be. This scribe is not privy to anything other than his own base inclinations. So don't take these as rumors. Take what follows as, oh, spirited conjecture.
With those qualifiers laid out, let's make some guesses as to the identity of these mystery teams ...
Mystery Team No. 1
The Chicago Cubs have made noise about a tight winter budget, but that's at odds with the team's needs and current competitive window. The guess here is that there's more room for payroll than they're letting own. Harper's a potential fit, and he's been the subject of stronger Cubs rumors. Right now, though, that Cub outfield is fairly crowded, so we'll say they at least kick the tires on Machado. Hey, he'll already be in Chicago.
There's no guarantee that Addison Russell, even though the Cubs controversially tendered him, will be the starting shortstop once his suspension ends or even plays another game in a Cubs uniform. Installing Machado as shortstop would allow Javier Baez to remain at second base. In the event that the infield does become a bit more crowded, that will allow Kris Bryant to spend more time at the outfield corners. Either way, Machado's right-handed power bat would be a nice fit for Wrigley Field. To reiterate, it all flows from the Cubs' willingness to spend.
Mystery Team No. 2
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have Mike Trout for just two more seasons, barring another contract extension. Thanks to the clubs' inability to build a consistent roster around him, Trout's played in just three playoff games in his career -- a career that's seen him rack up more than 60 WAR before he turned 27. Yes, that disastrous Albert Pujols contract looms over the budget, but the Angels have reaped so much surplus value from Trout that they have no reason not to spend now that his clock is winding down.
As long as Machado is willing to go back to third base (it would make no sense to dislodge Andrelton Simmons at short), he'd be a very sensible addition for GM Billy Eppler. Zack Cozart is under contract through 2020, but he also played short and second last season. You shift him to a utility role and let Machado upgrade a third base corps that last season hit .220/.278/.369.
Mystery Team No. 3
Not unlike the White Sox, the San Diego Padres are beginning to claw their way out of a teardown, and it seems likely they'll do some spending again this winter (recall that last offseason they paid ill-advised big bucks to Eric Hosmer). Wil Myers right now is penciled in at third base, and that's obviously not an ideal situation. Myers could be shifted back to the outfield to make room for Machado at third. As well, the Padres have a need for a shortstop until Fernando Tatis Jr. is ready for the highest level. Perhaps Machado could pin down his preferred position until Tatis arrives for good (or perhaps they'd be willing to shift Tatis in deference to Machado). In any event, Machado's young age means he fits the Padres' near-, mid-, and long-term plans, and he would no doubt invigorate a fan base that could use a little invigorating.
To repeat: This has been an exercise in semi-idle speculation. Now go forth and boldly declare that it's at least theoretically possible that the Cubs, Angels, and Padres have perhaps cursory interest in considering something like a pursuit of someone very similar to or perhaps indistinguishable from Manny Machado.