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Duquette ready for final run with Machado, core

MLB.com @feinsand

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Asked Sunday morning who has stood out to him in Orioles camp thus far, Dan Duquette rattled off a list of names including Hunter Harvey, DJ Stewart, Ryan Mountcastle, Tanner Scott and Chance Sisco, before adding, "Manny Machado looks like he's poised to have a good year."

Then Duquette smiled.

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- Asked Sunday morning who has stood out to him in Orioles camp thus far, Dan Duquette rattled off a list of names including Hunter Harvey, DJ Stewart, Ryan Mountcastle, Tanner Scott and Chance Sisco, before adding, "Manny Machado looks like he's poised to have a good year."

Then Duquette smiled.

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The Orioles' franchise player is entering his final year before free agency, and although Baltimore fielded offers for the three-time All-Star this winter, the shortstop-turned-third-baseman-turned-shortstop is still with the club and has gotten off to a blazing start this spring.

Could the Orioles try to work out an extension with Machado, who would undoubtedly be one of the most sought-after free agents next offseason if he reaches the open market?

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"I would never say never, but we're going to be more focused on '18 than beyond," Duquette said. "I don't really know what's going to happen beyond that."

Despite the fact that Machado's future will continue to be a hot topic of conversation throughout the year, Duquette seems unconcerned about it becoming a distraction for either Machado or his team.

"Not the way he's going about his job," Duquette said. "It looks to me like he's going to have a good year. He's leaner, more fit than I've ever seen him."

Machado isn't the Orioles' only potential free agent. Duquette, the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations, and manager Buck Showalter are also entering the final year of their respective contracts, as are center fielder Adam Jones and relievers Zach Britton and Brad Brach.

Video: BOS@BAL: Machado ties it up with two-run double

"This is a very competitive group of players and the core group has been together for a while," Duquette said. "I think they would all like to take another shot at making the playoffs and seeing if we can advance. We'll try to win the last game of the season."

Baltimore reached the postseason as an American League Wild Card entry in 2012, snapping a 15-year October drought. They went back in '14 after winning the AL East title, then returned again in '16 with another Wild Card berth.

So while next offseason will assuredly present a multitude of questions for the Orioles to answer, Duquette is keeping his eyes focused exclusively on the upcoming campaign.

"I'll be more focused on '18," Duquette said. "I appreciate the opportunity that I've got. Our club has made the playoffs in '12, '14 and '16, so we've done pretty good in the even years. We'll see if we can do it."

Given the number of high-profile fixtures that can become free agents after the season, is Duquette looking at this as the last shot for this core to take a run at a World Series?

"Yes," he said.

Does that mean he doesn't expect the Orioles to be major players in next offseason's mega-market?

Video: Duquette on promising pitchers in Orioles' farm

Baltimore has roughly $51 million committed to four players in 2019 and a little more than the $21 million due to Chris Davis from 2020-22, leaving the club plenty of payroll flexibility if it chooses to make a play for a big name or two next offseason.

"We'll see," Duquette said. "We have a little more depth of talent in our organization down below, so that's encouraging for the future for being competitive. We'll have to see how this year goes, because there's a number of key free agents on the ballclub. It's a transition year for the Orioles, probably, after this one."

That transition year could mean a rebuild, a strategy Duquette notes has worked quite well for the past two World Series champions.

"A lot of these teams, it's the ages, the timing and the talent level, then do you have all your resources together at the same time?" Duquette said. "Look at what the Cubs and Astros did; they tore down the house and they built it up from the foundation. And they did pretty well.

"There is some logic toward doing that, right? You get the premium picks in the Draft and they can become the core players for your next championship club. A lot of this is timing; it's cyclical."

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.

Baltimore Orioles, Manny Machado