BALTIMORE -- Manny Machado set ground rules before he spoke to reporters Tuesday afternoon at Camden Yards.No questions about trades. No questions about free agency."I'm here to play baseball," Machado said. "That's all I can control."• At quarter mark, Klentak pleased with clubThe Phillies and their fans will be paying close
BALTIMORE -- Manny Machado set ground rules before he spoke to reporters Tuesday afternoon at Camden Yards.
No questions about trades. No questions about free agency.
"I'm here to play baseball," Machado said. "That's all I can control."
• At quarter mark, Klentak pleased with club
The Phillies and their fans will be paying close attention to Machado this week. Machado, 25, is having the best season of his career, just months before he becomes a free agent for the first time. He could be the focus of the Phillies' offseason plans.
It is unlikely the Phillies acquire him before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline for the same reason they never pursued Machado in the offseason. It makes little sense to send several top prospects to Baltimore for a rental player, when they still need to learn more about Maikel Franco and J.P. Crawford and could sign Machado in the offseason without forfeiting any Minor League talent. Sure, Machado could change that if he agrees to sign a contract extension upon being traded, but that scenario is unlikely.
It is expected to cost hundreds of millions to sign Machado, but the Phillies have spent the past few seasons constructing their roster with a payroll flexible enough to land one of the prized players in the 2018-19 free-agent class.
"I think that's natural," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said about the fan interest in Machado. "I don't blame them for thinking ahead and wondering what he'd look like in a Phillies uniform. But I'm focused on our players and focused on our roster construction. I respect Manny Machado, but right now he's an Oriole."
Machado is hitting .350 with 11 doubles, 13 home runs, 38 RBIs and a 1.100 OPS in 181 plate appearances. He leads the American League with 55 hits. Entering Tuesday, He was tied for most home runs and RBIs in the Majors. Machado hit into some bad luck last season, hitting .259 with a .789 OPS. He had a 23-point gap between his xOBA (.282) and his OBA (.259).
It was the 15th-widest gap out of 300 batters last season, according to Statcast™.
"I feel the same," Machado said. "I've just been working on what I need to do. Last year was just some bad luck. The season changed and that's the beauty about baseball. A lot of different things can happen through the year. This year, I changed some things but not drastically. Just trying to stay consistent with my routines every day."
"He's an animal," Kapler said. "He hits just about everything in the strike zone. When he's going well, he hits out of the strike zone as well. He drives the ball to all parts of the ballpark and right now, he's among the league's top five or 10 players. Right now, he stands out in the lineup as the guy you think about most. Not that the other guys on the Orioles' lineup aren't really good players, but he just stands out and shines fairly bright."
Machado expressed little familiarity with the Phillies, but that will change if the Phillies come calling after the World Series. He knows Jacob Arrieta and Tommy Hunter from their time in Baltimore. He knows Carlos Santana.
"They're in the National League so I haven't really paid attention much to it," he said. "I know that they're playing great baseball, and we have to play better than them this week. They're a good team over there."
Machado also has some familiarity with the Phillies' front office. Club president Andy MacPhail, general manager Matt Klentak, assistant general manager Ned Rice and player development director Joe Jordan were in Baltimore when the Orioles selected him in the first round of the 2010 Draft.
In fact, Jordan drafted him.
"I spoke to Joe Jordan a lot when I got drafted," Machado said. "He was the guy that was on me for a while. It's just a relationship we have because he's the guy that drafted me when he was here. We still talk every time we see each other. He says, 'Hello,' or goes out of his way to talk and we say, 'What's up?' and we communicate a bit. It's pretty awesome because that's the guy who drafted me out of high school, and those are things that you never forget."
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.