If Machado remains in the organization, and I can’t place odds on it, I’d expect him to be the starting shortstop on opening day. Call it a hunch, call it my ability to read between the lines. It just seems as though manager Buck Showalter has made a decision and isn’t ready to go public with it.
The biggest reason, of course, being that Machado could be playing for a different team. And there are so many moving parts if he isn’t, such as finding a replacement at third base and making certain that Tim Beckham is comfortable with the decision.
The dire need for starting pitching has reduced the Orioles’ willingness to hold onto Machado and closer Zach Britton. It isn’t due to concrete evidence that they can’t sign Machado to a long-term extension, since they haven’t engaged in talks with his agent, Dan Lozano, in a couple of years.
They’re also playing a hunch. Machado is in line to get a contract in free agency that could exceed $300 million. Can anyone envision the Orioles, no matter how much they value Machado, going to such extremes to keep him?
While I believe that the Yankees have some level of interest in trading for Machado, you’re more likely to see actual swans and dolphins swim through the lobbies of the Swan and Dolphin Resort. The Orioles must listen to all offers and the Yankees are equipped to deliver an enticing package of prospects ... but still, no.
The Cardinals, with their needs and deep farm system, make a lot of sense. The Phillies would be ideal if they’d part with top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, but a scout from another organization compares him to Pedro Martinez and he’s untouchable.
(I checked with someone last night who ran the name past a Phillies official as a possible trade chip for Machado and the facial expression was similar to what happens after guzzling milk with an expiration date of 2003.)
There’s a gamble if a team like the Phillies waits until making a run at Machado in free agency. He may never hit the market if another club works out a trade and extension.
* The Orioles haven’t moved away from Chris Tillman in their search for starters, but it’s evident that concerns linger over his struggles this year and whether there’s a solution.
It’s become a daily occurrence for executive vice president Dan Duquette to be asked about his interest in Tillman. To the point where he’s able to joke about it.
“There’s that Chris Tillman question every day,” he said. “We like Chris Tillman. He had several good years for us. But we tried to find the answer to get him back pitching this year like he did in the past and we didn’t find the right combination.”
The Orioles must be convinced that he’s healthy and able to regain his mechanics, which he kept searching for this summer.
* I was wondering how long the Orioles knew about infielder Steve Wilkerson’s pending 50-game suspension for amphetamine use before Major League Baseball issued the release yesterday. After all, it could have explained his exclusion from the 40-man roster that left him unprotected in Thursday’s Rule 5 draft.
Wilkerson’s failed test came in late November following the AFL season, according to a source, and roster decisions were finalized on Nov. 21.
While I’ve heard that some teams aren’t aware of a suspension until shortly before it’s announced, the Orioles knew about infielder Robert Andino’s penalty - 50 games on May 31 for violating the minor league drug prevention and treatment program - well in advance. That’s one reason why they didn’t select his contract after Ryan Flaherty was placed on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.
* Showalter expects to have all of his coaches on the 2018 staff after they were offered the chance to stay.
“I think so,” he said. “Some of them, their contracts ran out in October, some of them in December. But I know I was talking to one of the coaches whose contract had run out in December who had gotten it the last week or two.
“I think they all have them. Whether they’re ... I don’t think any of us are in a position to be holding out right now.”
Showalter is entering the final year of his contract and said yesterday that he wants to continue managing beyond 2018. He insisted that he hasn’t pondered the future and his “considerations,” as one reporter worded it.
“I haven’t thought about it other than knowing how fortunate and lucky I am to be in Baltimore,” he said. “I think everybody knows what I think of the city and the organization and the people that I’ve come to know. But as every day passes, it’s another great honor. So I don’t ... what goes down the line, stay focused on the day-to-day operations of what my job is and try to stay focused on what we have and making it the best we can be.
“If we can out-relationship people or out-prepare, out-organize, out-taught, you know, whatever. We need to do the things that we can make a difference in. What we have to do to make up the difference with some challenges that we have because of the division we play in.”