Machado’s status on the field and within the organization were the hottest topics today during Showalter’s 23-minute session with the media inside the workroom at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort.
The Orioles are checking for matches in potential trades of Machado and closer Zach Britton, one of the major storylines in Day Two of the Winter Meetings. Executive vice president Dan Duquette will address the topic at 5 p.m. during his daily media briefing.
Today was Showalter’s turn.
“Frankly, we’re not talking about that all the time,” Showalter said. “I’m not involved in a lot of that, what’s really going on. That’s Dan’s situation and Dan’s prerogative with his communication with people. When it gets to the end, ... I’m kind of like, what if something happens, what are you going to do? I’m looking from within at what we have and what we’re going to do with it. If there’s something that’s going to change drastically the construction of our roster, I’m sure I’ll be brought into it.”
Machado has expressed the desire to move back to his natural position.
“Always has since the day he signed,” Showalter said. “I think out of his respect for J.J. Hardy ... and one of the reasons why we brought Jonathan (Schoop) and him up early is because of the chance to play alongside J.J. and really jumpstart their development in a lot of areas. Manny has not only respect for J.J., but also for Tim Beckham and other people.
“To say that Manny and I haven’t had conversations about it over the years, I wouldn’t be truthful. I think you guys know that I try to have guys hear from me about things, whether it be Tim or whether it be Manny or whether it be a Ryan Flaherty or Chris Davis about something, anybody.
“Obviously, we’re not there yet, but it’s something that Manny ... I found that players need to know about that, not Feb. 15 or March 15. They need to know about it back then. Manny’s capable of playing both real well, and I think so is Tim.”
So what determines where Machado plays? Showalter was ready with a quip.
“Next 48 hours,” he said. “No, listen, you know I’ve got a real gut feeling about how it’s going to work out, but I want to make sure we cover all the bases before whatever direction we go in. It’s good to have the strength there for those two guys, guys that are going to play shortstop, and it’s a good problem to have.
“Manny and I have certainly talked privately about it. I know him having the experience he’s had there in the big leagues, I think he’s got a real respect for what it takes to play there at the major leagues. I think he played it for almost a month, as you well know, and it was a different challenge for him, but he’s capable.”
The only confirmation from Showalter is that Machado will play shortstop or third base if he remains with the club. Pretty obvious stuff.
“Not there yet, publicly anyway,” he said. “You know I’ve had some pretty good conversations about it, even recently.”
Asked again if shortstop is a possibility, Showalter replied, “Oh, sure. So it is with Tim. I’m hoping that some of our other kids, the (Luis) Sardiñas kid, I’m really hoping to get a look at in the spring. He was real young and kind of got back on the map with us. I know he signed very quickly with us.”
Showalter didn’t use Machado at shortstop this summer while Hardy was on the disabled list.
“J.J. was coming back at some point,” Showalter said. “I just thought Manny was, and is, so good at third base and will be again that the timing wasn’t right.”
Showalter was asked whether he’s reached out to Machado, or plans to do it, as the infielder’s future is played out in public. The trade talk, the possible move to short.
“We have those conversations all year long, some casual, some not,” Showalter replied. “They sit down to them while they’re having a meal or playing chess. You always keep that dialogue open. You want to know what they’re thinking, what they’re feeling. You don’t assume they’re handling something well or not well. So I’ll continue to try to communicate.
“I try to put myself in players’ shoes. What would I want to know? It’s the unknown that drives people crazy and things that are out of their control. Manny has earned the right to be in control of a lot of things in his life and career. And he’s got a good feel for it. But I still would not assume things like that. So there’s that possibility.
“What are you going to say to him other than just be a sounding board? I don’t know how things are going to work out for any of our guys. He’s not the only one in the last year of a contract.”
Showalter drew laughter from the gathering at the mention of his own status.
“Someone asked me about it, and I said, how are we different than players?” Showalter said. “I know coaches who didn’t know what they were doing when the season ended.
“Coaches and managers, to some extent trainers, players, there’s a lot more people on our club, every club, that don’t know what life and the season and the game has in store for them each year. It’s an honor every day I get a chance to do this. As I get older, I realize how lucky I am, even more so. Where life and baseball takes me, I’ll deal with another time. Right now, my focus is on the 2018 season and see if we can get back to competing.”
Showalter wants to manage beyond his contract with the Orioles that’s set to expire next winter.
“Sure, sure,” he said.
All of the coaches are expected back next season. They’ve received contracts.
Showalter provided his annual reminder that it’s not his responsibility to make trades and he’s focused only on the players who remain in the organization. He’s gathering names of players who will attend next month’s minicamp, with the invitations due on Friday.
Asked whether he anticipated a significant trade going down, Showalter replied, “It depends on what you define as significant. A lot of things happen here that don’t look significant and then you look back at them in September and they’re very significant. We’ll see where that takes us.
“There’s a lot of things, people kind of feeling their way around. There’s a lot of things going on. You try to figure out the difference between perception and reality.”
Showalter is sensitive to the perception that the Orioles are ready to go into a full rebuilding mode at the expense of winning and how it impacts the fan base. He also wants full transparency so everyone understands what’s happen and why.
“When I first came here, you want to be consistent with the message to your fans and to the people that live and die with everything the Orioles do,” he said. “I’m hoping we can continue to do that because it’s something that we’ve been proud of here for the last five, six, seven years. So we’ll see where this all leads. But you do want to have a definitive plan.
“Good fans like we have, if they kind of know what the end game is with things, whether it’s us last year, the year before, the year before, they just ... they want to sell themselves emotionally to you, you’ve got to be honest and frank with them. Because economically, our ownership has been great. They’ve been as supportive as any time in Oriole history, if you really want to look at it, financially and everything.
“Somebody brings up something the Yankees do or the Red Sox do. Last time I looked, the Red Sox won the division the last two years. I mean, I don’t get jealous or whatever. That’s the nature of the game. It’s economically. I’d do the same thing if I was them, but we can’t let them creep in here if it was an excuse.
Showalter also talked about the Orioles’ pursuit of an outfielder capable of playing in multiple spots rather than just being locked into one of the corners.
“I thought Trey (Mancini) came leaps and bounds,” Showalter said. “He’s actually turned into a pretty good outfielder. I know what we’re going to do in right field is a question, for instance, where Mark (Trumbo) would fit into the equation.
“The problem is, if you look at our schedule and the way the game’s going, most people are going with 13 pitchers. So now you’re talking about a catcher and you’re talking about (Anthony) Santander. So you’re talking about one spot left. The premium on that guy being very versatile, and I think the value of that player in the game today is becoming real, real valuable to teams. Most teams are able to develop somebody like that from within. We’re not quite there yet.”
It’s necessary for the Orioles in order to provide more rest for Adam Jones.
“Yeah, if that person ... we’re talking about this one person,” Showalter said. “Santander can’t play center field. That’s the point I’m trying to make to you. Where does that come from? Trey or (Jaycob) Brugman? No. That’s why this other piece is very important if you have a decision about how it’s going to play out, especially if you look at our schedule.”
Jones won’t move to right field in 2018.
“Not at this stage,” Showalter said. “He’s not ... You know, I think he’s a very capable and solid center fielder for us.”
The outfielder ideally would bat from the left side.
“I think one of the challenges we had the last couple months, how much right-handed pitching we saw,” Showalter said. “Right now, we’re running seven, eight right-handed hitters out there. I’d rather run a good right-handed hitter out there than a bad left-hander, but it is something we’d like to balance our lineup out there more. Dan and I have talked about it.”
Showalter hasn’t committed to putting outfielder Austin Hays on the opening day roster.
“He’s got a chance to contribute in the future, when it is,” Showalter said. “We think it’s kind of when, not if. Good kid. Presented himself well. Obviously, had one of the best years of anybody in the minor leagues in baseball. Was a strong contender for minor league Player of the Year.
“He’s a good kid. Brings a lot of tools, plays the game right. We were excited about him and the progress he made. Like a lot of kids down below.”