MINNEAPOLIS — Manny Machado doesn’t know what uniform he will be wearing by the end of this month, but the fans elected him to represent the Orioles in the All-Star Game as the American League’s starting shortstop.
Whether Machado is still a member of the Orioles by the time the game is played July 17 at nearby Nationals Park — or whether being traded, particularly to a National League team, would affect how he’s allowed to participate in the game — remains to be seen.
But after learning of his fourth All-Star Game selection Sunday just two days after turning 26, Machado said while he realizes his days with the only major league organization he knows are likely numbered, he will take special pride representing the Orioles in the midsummer classic for likely his final time as trade rumors continue to intensify with the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline looming.
“There’s been a lot of talks and a lot of things going on, but who knows what will happen at the end of the day,” Machado said. “I haven’t heard anything. I’ll probably be the last to hear, but things could change, or I could probably stay here for a lot longer, for more than a couple weeks to come. But who knows? I’m just blessed and happy that I got selected to be a starter and I can continue to do my job here as an Oriole and try to win some more games before I leave, just try to enjoy every moment I can with my teammates and just try to take this season as it is.”
Considering how poorly the Orioles’ season has gone and that this was Machado’s first season as a full-time shortstop, it was quite an accomplishment — and a testament to Machado’s overall popularity — that he won the tightest fan balloting race of any AL position, emerging from a strong crop of AL shortstops that included the Houston Astros’ Carlos Correa, the New York Yankees’ Didi Gregorius, the Cleveland Indians’ Francisco Lindor and the Seattle Mariners’ Jean Segura.
“Oh, definitely [a surprise],” Machado said. “I wasn’t expecting it going into the season. Obviously, I wanted to be an All-Star, but to get the privilege to start the game and get voted in by the fans takes it above and beyond. At the end of the day, the other guys that were in this, as well, could have easily been a starter. Correa, Didi, Segura, we’re all doing big things this year overall, so to be starting, I’m truly humbled. Again, I just want to thank the fans for voting and for making this all come true.”
Machado also participated in the All-Star Game in 2013, 2015 and 2016. He was voted in by the fans to start at third base in the 2016 game in San Diego.
He will become the fourth player to start an All-Star Game at third base and shortstop, joining Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Arky Vaughan.
This season has been anything but routine for Machado. Going into his final year before free agency, the Orioles openly shopped him during the offseason, but decided to hang on to him with the focus of trying to compete in 2018. That didn’t happen as the Orioles are on pace for one of the worst seasons in major league history, and their focus has turned to rebuilding for the future, making moving Machado a near certainty.
But Machado blocked out the distractions, handling all the inquiries about his possible landing spot and pending free agency, and produced on the field. He entered Sunday’s series finale in Minnesota ranked in the top eight in the AL in batting average (.310, eighth), home runs (21, eighth), RBIs (60, sixth) and hits (104, sixth).
“Manny, you can tell, I think playing shortstop really — I don’t know if it energized [him] — but was really something he really wanted to be good at and it is obvious that a lot of people feel that way,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “But we’re proud of him. He’s been consistent. He’s been engaged since the first day of spring training, not that he hasn’t been before. You can tell that he was on a little mission to be consistent all year this year and I think this is consistent with that.”
Machado’s arrival in Baltimore in August of 2012 correlated with the Orioles’ renaissance of three postseason trips in five years, but Machado acknowledged that going through this year’s trials — the Orioles entered Sunday already 40 games under .500 — has been a challenge.
“It’s very tough,” Machado said. “It’s not easy going out there, being a winning team the last six years or being in contention, fighting for a playoff spot every year, and then this year it’s kind of been the opposite. So, it’s been kind of hard and everything’s a little different, but we try to not think about those things and try to go out there and try to play baseball as us, as players, as teammates, and unfortunately things haven’t been going right for a lot of people. Things haven’t been going the way we wanted it to. But at the end, we’ve got to go out there and do everything possible to try to win games and put yourself in good situations.”
Orioles beat writer Eduardo Encina on Orioles' Manny Machado trade talks. (Baltimore Sun video)
The Orioles are weighing Machado trade offers from seven teams — including six in the National League — so the team’s best player could be moved in the coming weeks or the coming days. It is uncertain what would happen if Machado is traded — particularly to an NL club motivated to act quickly — before the All-Star Game.
In 2014, pitcher Jeff Samardzija was ineligible to play when he was traded across leagues from the Chicago Cubs to the Oakland Athletics. He was introduced as an NL All-Star, but wore a generic All-Star Game jersey and cap.
In 2004, outfielder Carlos Beltran was traded from the Kansas City Royals to the Astros when Houston was still an NL club. Because Beltran was traded June 24, more than a week before the All-Star Game teams were named, it allowed him to be placed on the NL team and first baseman Ken Harvey to replace him to represent Kansas City.
A trade before the All-Star Game could leave the Orioles without an All-Star Game representative in a year the event is just down the road in Washington.
Machado realizes it is out of his control, but said Sunday he would like to represent the Orioles, even if it is for the final time.
“Every jersey I’ve put on has been [as] an Oriole,” Machado said. “I’ve performed this year as an Oriole. I’ve done everything possible to work hard. The organization gave me the opportunity to go back to shortstop and play my natural position.
“For me to put that jersey on, it will be like the first time that I was selected for the All-Star Game. I started one at third, now I’m starting one at short. It’s just reeling through my mind. I didn’t think I would get it. The fans kind of I guess appreciated the way I’ve been playing and I appreciate everything they’ve done. So hopefully I put on that [Orioles] jersey and if not, I’m always going to be grateful no matter what.”