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Orioles evaluate Machado's trade market but say it's not yet time to 'fish or cut bait'

The Orioles front office continued to assess superstar third baseman Manny Machado’s trade value on Wednesday’s final full day of the baseball winter meetings, and while the club sees preliminary potential fits with about a handful of teams, it hasn’t ruled out the possibility of moving Machado anywhere, even to a division rival such as the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox.

Trade discussions regarding Machado went deeper Wednesday, but at this point, it appears that the Orioles will leave the meetings after Thursday’s Rule 5 draft with Machado still on the roster. Club officials remain ready to listen to offers, but are not necessarily in any hurry to move their best player as he enters his final season before free agency.

“We’re making good progress on that,” executive vice president Dan Duquette said Wednesday regarding Machado’s evolving trade market. “We met with a couple teams today. So we’ve got an idea of what their interest is. [We] will see if we match up, so we’re making good progress on that. We did some of that last night also. So that’s moving along. … I think that’s taking its natural course. You need to find out what the teams are interested in, if you match up with certain teams. There’s a little more time to do that.”

The Orioles will seemingly head back to Baltimore looking to build on conversations they’ve had with clubs regarding Machado with an emphasis on deciding his eventual fate by the end of the month.

“Clubs are putting their teams together now, so that window of when teams are adding key pieces to their ballclub, it usually goes on now through the first of the year,” Duquette said. “At some point, you have to decide if you’re going to fish or cut bait, so that’s a little ways down the track.”

That would suggest the Orioles have yet to be overwhelmed in any trade talks with clubs regarding Machado.

To completely evaluate the market for Machado, Duquette said, the Orioles must consider a deal with their top division rivals, including a Yankees team that has bulked up by acquiring slugger Giancarlo Stanton and a Red Sox club that trumped the market this time last year with a trade for left-handed ace Chris Sale.

“Well, I think you have to look at the entire market if you’re going to accurately assess the market, and the entire market would include teams in the American League East that we compete against,” Duquette said Wednesday morning in a video interview with The Baltimore Sun. “We have made some trades with the Red Sox and we have made some trades with the Yankees. … So I think you have to look at the whole market, and in this case, the Orioles will look at the entire market.”

With the exception of the Orioles’ deadline deal with the Red Sox to acquire lockdown lefty reliever Andrew Miller — a trade that cost them young lefty starter Eduardo Rodríguez but had to be done to help the team advance to the AL Championship Series — none remotely have had the magnitude of a potential Machado swap.

Asked about the possibility of trading Machado to a division rival and then having to face him 19 times next season, Duquette said: “Right now, we control that. A year from now we’re not going to be controlling that.”

Still, dealing Machado to the Yankees or Red Sox could prompt a backlash from an Orioles fan base that has seen other players leave Baltimore for the behemoths of the AL East, especially considering that the club hasn’t actively engage Machado in any real extension talk in the past three years.

Still, Duquette remains adamant in not using the word “rebuild” in detailing the Orioles’ possible offseason path, even if it includes dealing Machado.

“I’m going to say this, I’m not interested in a rebuild, OK?” Duquette said in the video interview, “because I don’t think this is the right time for this organization to say ‘rebuild.’ … So the teams we’re competing against are improving and we’re going to need to add to our ballclub to be able to get into that contending mode. … You try to do the right thing for your ballclub, but you still have to go out there and compete, and I’m confident we can still find the pieces to put together a ballclub that can be competitive this year.”

Because of that, the Orioles will have lofty aspirations for what Machado should bring, even though the team they’d be trading him to would be guaranteed his services for just one season. Duquette indicated the Orioles would be asking for multiple top-tier starting pitchers who can help the club compete in 2018, not merely prospects.

“We’d like to try to staff our club to be as strong as it can be this year and that would be our first choice,” Duquette said. “Whether we can do that or not, that’s another story. But that would be our first choice.”

If the Orioles don’t trade Machado and allow him to test free agency, they would receive nothing more than a compensatory draft pick.

Even though the Orioles plan to take their time on a potential Machado deal, Duquette hoped that the Orioles would return north with another pitcher, even though that pitcher could end up being from Thursday’s Rule 5 draft, where the team is expected to take a left-hander, leaving the club once again as more of an observer than participant in the meetings despite all the discussion revolving around Machado.

eencina@baltsun.com

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