My trip to St. Petersburg, Fla., for the weekend series against the Rays will lack the entertainment value of having the opposing city’s media staked out at Manny Machado’s locker.
I’m fairly certain that the Rays aren’t deemed as a potential trade partner for the Orioles or a candidate to sign Machado in free agency. It’s a modest media contingent to begin with, and no one will be checking with Machado on his interest in playing his home games beneath the dome. Unless he insists on staying at shortstop and playing where the temperature always is 72 degrees.
You can drop the Trop narrative.
Reporters on the Yankees and Dodgers beats milled around Machado’s space in the visiting clubhouse until he spoke to them. A couple of Phillies writers did the same at Camden Yards. And it happened again Monday night in Chicago, with MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski saying more than 20 visiting writers were in the scrum. I’m assuming most of them were playing the Cubs angle.
Machado isn’t hiding from anyone. He could have stated in spring training or earlier in the season that he wasn’t going to keep addressing the trade rumors or where he might be playing in 2019, but he’s been accessible, patient and cordial.
I wrote at the Winter Meetings that multiple people in the industry - and outside the Orioles organization - stated that the club could get more for Machado if it waited until the non-waiver trade deadline. The math might not make sense, considering that his rental period continues to shrink, but contenders are more clearly identified and can become desperate.
They also can get more aggressive in their pursuit. It takes two teams to consummate a trade. Nothing complicated about that math. The Orioles aren’t going to accept a few mid-level prospects just to move him before free agency. Getting nothing of substance in return accomplishes the same.
The Cubs talked to the Orioles at the Winter Meetings and naturally retain interest. Why would it disappear? It isn’t a recent development that they want him. It’s just comes down to the Cubs’ willingness to part with the right prospects.
The teams are viewed as logical trade partners in part because the Cubs can hand over Addison Russell, giving the Orioles a replacement for Machado. Who else is going to play shortstop?
Check the various top 20 prospect lists for the Orioles and you won’t find an immediate replacement for Machado. Adam Hall is a second-round pick in 2017 from an Ontario high school who’s still at extended spring training and a long way from the majors.
Adrian Marin played shortstop again last night for Triple-A Norfolk. He hasn’t presented himself as a long-term solution. Erick Salcedo played shortstop again last night for Double-A Bowie and began the game with a .216 average and .509 OPS.
Ryan Mountcastle is raking now that he’s off the disabled list, but he’s not going back to shortstop.
The Cubs dug into their farm system to complete prior trades, but they still have pitching prospects Adbert Alzolay, Jose Albertos and Oscar De La Cruz.
The Orioles liked Cardinals pitchers Jack Flaherty, Jordan Hicks and Luke Weaver while engaged in talks at the Winter Meetings. They did their homework on Phillies infielder Scott Kingery and 19-year-old Single-A pitcher Sixto Sanchez, described back in December by an official from another organization as the next Pedro Martinez.
Probably not going to happen, but worth the attempts.
The Diamondbacks may have been the most aggressive suitor for Machado as the offseason moved along, doubling back to the Orioles after early talks at the meetings.
The Orioles stood firm on their demands for two young controllable starters in exchange for Machado while stressing that they weren’t “actively shopping” him. Teams called or arranged meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and they listened. Why not?
As the Memorial Day marker approaches, it’s fair to wonder whether they’d take one top pitching prospect and push to sweeten the pot elsewhere. They could fill holes or improve their depth in other areas, including the left side of their infield and the outfield, with Adam Jones also a pending free agent and no right fielder locked into an everyday role.
So to summarize, the Orioles still aren’t going to give away Machado, they still need another team to actually make a trade work, many of the same teams that were interested at the Winter Meetings naturally are going to remain interested and the Orioles aren’t afraid to wait until they get closer to the July 31 non-waiver deadline for a contender to make a bold move.
The other question that I field almost on a daily basis pertains to first baseman Chris Davis and what the Orioles can do with him.
They’re not eating more than four years of his contract. I haven’t heard anything to suggest that they’re considering whether to release him. The only way to option him would be to designate him for assignment and outright him after he cleared waivers, and he’d still get paid. I haven’t heard anything to suggest that they’re ready to make such a bold move.
Manager Buck Showalter, who’s celebrating his 62nd birthday today, could keep lowering Davis in the order or sit him for consecutive games, as he did at the end of April. Not just one day off here and there.
Davis batted fifth last night, which continues to make less sense as his average plummets. The counter argument is, “If not him, then who?” To which I respond, “Is it who or whom?” And that’s also not a solution.
Benchings seem to be the only alternative if Davis doesn’t snap out of it. He had three good at-bats Monday night and nothing to show for them. And we’ve reached the point where flying out to the left field warning track is graded as a successful trip to the plate. Solid contact rather than striking out.