Machado: Must stay focused amid trade talk

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BALTIMORE — For Manny Machado, the All-Star break will be anything but a break.

Besides serving as the starting shortstop for the American League in the All-Star Game, Machado likely will have to contend with continued and increased speculation surrounding his status as baseball’s hottest trade chip.

“Everywhere, I see it’s just Manny, Manny, Manny,” Machado said Monday afternoon before the Baltimore Orioles‘ doubleheader against the New York Yankees. “It kind of gets a little distracting at times. But it’s just a matter of just trying to let it all out.

“Once I come here and step in this clubhouse, I’m just a ballplayer. I’m just trying to win some games. I’m trying to be myself. I’m trying to go out there and have fun. That’s the only thing that keeps me going. I love this game so much, and I’m able to go out there every day and put on a show and be the best player I can be out there.”

A free agent at the end of the season, Machado — whose Orioles own the worst record in the majors — has been a one-man engine for the rumor mill as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches.

With Baltimore out of contention and on pace for a historically bad season, it’s a near certainty that Machado will be dealt by the end of the month.

The Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies are among the playoff hopefuls that have been mentioned as potential destinations.

Regardless of where and when Machado gets traded, he knows that a large part of his All-Star experience this year will be dealing with all the trade talk.

“I’ve had to deal with it all year. It’s been nonstop, every city we’ve gone to, with reporters asking questions,” he said. “Like I said before, I’ve answered all the questions I needed to answer. Obviously there’s going to be some more new questions coming out there at that time. I’m sure there’s probably going to be quite a few teams that they’re going to want to ask questions about. Those are just things that I’m just going to have to deal with it when it comes and just try to enjoy the moment when I get there.

“At the end of the day, it’s about enjoying your family, enjoy with your friends and the closest people to you that have gotten you there to that position. Other than that, just enjoy it as much as I can because I’m the starting shortstop and I worked to get there to this position. I’m very grateful and humbled at same time.”

A Platinum Glove Award winner and three-time All-Star at third base, Machado moved back to his original position this season. On Sunday night, he was named the AL starter at shortstop for the Midsummer Classic, beating out a stacked field that includes Houston’s Carlos Correa, Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor, Seattle’s Jean Segura and Andrelton Simmons of the Angels.

If a deal happens before the All-Star Game on July 18 and Machado winds up in the National League, he could lose his starting AL spot. But Machado, who turned 26 last week, isn’t focusing on that.

“I’m the American League starter,” he said. “That’s all I’ve been thinking about. That’s all I’ve been celebrating with my wife, with my family. We’re just very excited. We’re not even thinking about that.”

In 88 games with the Orioles this season, Machado is hitting .313 with 21 home runs and 60 RBIs. His .943 OPS ranks sixth overall in the American League, and first among shortstops. Defensively, his .978 fielding percentage is seventh among AL shortstops, while his minus-18 runs saved ranks last.

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