WASHINGTON — It appears that Tuesday night’s All-Star Game at Nationals Park will be Manny Machado’s last game in an Orioles uniform.
The Orioles continued to close in on finalizing a trade to send Machado to a contender — with the Los Angeles Dodgers appearing to be the leading suitor — and a source said that a deal will likely be completed over the next 72 hours. A deal for the American League All-Star team’s starting shortstop could be completed as soon as Wednesday, and will almost definitely occur before the Orioles resume their regular season Friday night in Toronto.
In the AL clubhouse before Tuesday’s game, Machado faced one more national media swell. Asked whether he believed he would be traded before Friday, Machado said: “You know what? Honestly, I don’t even expect anything to be honest.”
“I’m just not trying to even worry about it,” he said. “If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, I’ll be there.”
If this was going to be the final time Machado wears an Orioles jersey — he grew from from a heralded prospect to the team’s most popular player — Machado said he would relish it. And maybe it was fitting that if the All-Star Game couldn’t be in Baltimore, the next best thing was it being just south in the nation’s capital.
“It’s awesome,” Machado said. “Every time you put on an Oriole uniform it’s always a great blessing and you always want that opportunity to put that on. Just put it on, go play shortstop. When I get my name announced. I know there’s going to be some Baltimore fans out there, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Over the past several days, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers have emerged as finalists for Machado. Despite reports suggesting a front-runner, the Orioles have done well in presenting an even playing field among suitors.
The Dodgers have always been near the top of the list of Machado’s suitors, and the Orioles have targeted top outfield prospect Yusniel Díaz as one of the top players they are coveting in a potential trade with Los Angeles. A source said Tuesday that Díaz has been “extensively discussed” in trade talks with the Dodgers.
Díaz, who homered twice for the World team in Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game, is the Dodgers’ fourth-best prospect according to MLB Pipeline and their sixth best according to Baseball America. A 21-year-old Cuba native, Díaz was signed to a $15.5 million bonus after the 2015 season and has been fast-tracked since. He is hitting .314/.428/.477 with 20 extra-base hits and 30 RBIs in 59 games with Double-A Tulsa this season.
All three finalists preferred to acquire Machado last month, not as a two-month rental before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline. But the Orioles took time to weigh offers from eight teams, fully understanding that this deal was one to be orchestrated with precision.
While the Orioles are working through the final steps of their trade of Machado, who’s playing in his fourth All-Star Game before reaching free agency at the age of 26, the club is known to be meticulous in its medical reviews.
Machado expressed several times over the past two days that he’d prefer a deal to get done sooner than later so he wouldn’t have to continue to be dogged by questions and could just concentrate on the next chapter in his career. He’s publicly expressed his nervousness about going to another team, realizing the Orioles organization is the only one he’s ever known, and joking that he’s bad with names.
“He’s been dealing with everything pretty good,” said Mariners designated hitter and former Oriole Nelson Cruz, a close friend of Machado’s since they played together in 2014. “He’s been a professional on and off the field with all the things that are happening. It’s difficult. Hopefully, it happens pretty quick so he can relax a little bit more and not have to worry about moving. … I guess with him, everybody’s talking about it, so everyone’s expecting it.
The spotlight was on Machado throughout All-Star Game. Even the game’s best player, Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout — who had his locker next to Machado’s -- didn’t draw such a crowd everywhere he went.
“It’s probably pretty tough on him,” Trout said. “He doesn’t know where he’s going to be playing. He knows he’s going to be traded, but he doesn’t know where. I’m sure he wants this thing to be over. … I just wish he was coming to the Angels. I guess they’re saying Dodgers or Phillies?”