As Manny Machado begins final camp with Orioles, lucrative future – with Yankees? – awaits

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 Manny Machado walked into the Baltimore Orioles clubhouse at 8:48 Saturday morning, circled the entire room shaking hands of his teammates, and being teased about his new hair style.

It was the first day of his last spring-training camp wearing an Orioles uniform.

Machado, who will be moved full-time to shortstop this year, wants to stay at shortstop when he hits free agency in November, where he likely will wind up with the New York Yankees.

“It’s not about more money,’’ Machado said, “or a 20-year contract. I don’t want to keep switching off. I want to stay at shortstop.

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“It’s where my heart is always been.’’

The Orioles would gladly accommodate the request, just as they have this season, but don’t plan to empty the checkbook for him, too.

They know they can’t afford him.

Machado knows it, too.

Everyone in baseball knows it.

There have been no negotiations about a long-term contract to stay with the Orioles, Machado acknowledged Saturday morning, and there’s zero doubt he’ll hit free agency.

The only question is whether he’ll spend the entire season in an Orioles uniform, or be traded before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

But he will be gone.

“It won’t be a distraction,’’ Machado said. “I don’t work in the front office. I’m not an agent. I just play baseball.’’

Machado can only control where he plays next season, since he’ll be the one with the pen in his hand, and there’s only one logical spot:

The Yankees.

Machado grew up in Miami idolizing the Yankees.

Machado’s idol, Alex Rodriguez, spent 12 seasons and won a World Series with the Yankees.

And Machado, who would like to be on center stage in a big market, loves New York City.

Machado wants to be a Yankee and the feeling is mutual.

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The Yankees didn’t even bother negotiating to bring back Todd Frazier, who wanted a two-year contract, and not just for the 2018 season.

They would like to have free-agent third baseman Mike Moustakas, but sorry, only for a year.

The Yankees, for the first time, are actually cutting payroll just to be under the $197 million luxury tax so they can afford Machado.

Machado will cost at least $350 million. Maybe $400 million. Maybe more.

It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t even matter that they already have a shortstop in Didi Gregorius. The Yankees can always move Gregorius to second base. Machado could switch back to third base.

They will make room for him, not only the field, but in their budget, knowing they will have Giancarlo Stanton and Machado in the same uniform.

“We’ll see what happens,’’ Machado says, with a wide grin. “It’s going to be fun. All I know is that I’ll be playing shortstop this year for the Orioles, and what happens after that, only time will tell.’’


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