MESA, Ariz. -- Vimael Machin was expecting to compete for a second-base job this Spring Training. What he did not anticipate was that the opportunity would come with the A’s.
Drafted by the Cubs in 2015, Machin spent five seasons in the club’s Minor League system, working his way up to the point where he was knocking on the door of the Majors.
But after he remained off Chicago’s 40-man roster last winter, Machin became eligible for December’s Rule 5 Draft, during which the Puerto Rican-born infielder was selected by the Phillies, who then flipped him to the A’s in a trade shortly after.
“I was surprised. I remember it like it was yesterday,” Machin said. “I was asleep and got a call from a number I didn’t recognize. I picked up and it was [A’s general manager David Forst] letting me know that I had been picked up by the team. I didn’t expect it.”
While there was an initial feeling of shock, Machin said he also had a feeling in the back of his mind that a selection in the draft was a possibility after the year he put up in the Minors. The 26-year-old infielder hit .295 with seven home runs, 27 doubles, 65 RBIs and eight stolen bases over 129 games combined at Double-A and Triple-A Iowa.
The chance at reaching the Majors never came with the Cubs, but the move to Oakland presents a golden opportunity to realize his big league dreams. Machin fits the mold of the type of player the A's target as a high on-base guy, bringing a career .358 on-base percentage from the Minors, and he is in the mix for a second-base job that remains vacant following the departure of Jurickson Profar.
“I’m thankful to be here and on a team that has a hunger to win,” Machin said after the A's first full-squad workout Monday. “The manager made it clear today that everything starts with Day 1. The first day has passed and I’m excited about the opportunity.”
With experience playing all four infield positions and some outfield, Machin also gives the A’s a left-handed bat who could potentially be used in a utility role.
“The one thing about him, especially with the 26th spot, is he can play everywhere,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s not going to be just second base for him. He’ll play all over the infield as well.”
Making the club won’t be easy given the amount of competition in camp, including the four others at second base in Franklin Barreto, Jorge Mateo, Sheldon Neuse and Tony Kemp. However, one advantage Machin brings with him is the experience of playing in winter ball. He slashed .333/.369/.469 in 29 games with Criollos de Caguas of the Puerto Rican Winter League and even faced off against Mateo in the Caribbean Series earlier this month.
“It’s a plus for me,” Machin said of playing winter ball. “I treat it like my Spring Training. It was preparation for this opportunity that I have in front of me. I got to play in front of my family at the Caribbean Series and enjoyed every minute of it. I’m grateful to have had that opportunity and feel fully prepared to compete.”
While pitchers are usually ahead of hitters in the early goings of Spring Training, Melvin said playing in the winter league could help Machin get off to a quick start.
“A lot of times you’ll see the guys that played winter ball ahead of the other guys, even when games start,” Melvin said. “When you’re coming in and trying to be noticed and in the position he’s in, trying to make a team, if you can come in and hit the ground running, it will benefit him. I think the fact that he did well against some really good competition bodes well for his confidence coming in to big league camp.”
As a Rule 5 pick, Machin must remain on the A's 26-man roster all season or be offered back to the Cubs. The A’s have had success finding major contributors through the Rule 5 Draft, most recently Mark Canha back in 2015, so Machin might be in the right spot at the right time.
“I’m coming in here to give 100 percent every day in all aspects of the game,” Machin said. “Whether it’s hitting or fielding, just work hard. Just because I’m here does not mean I have a job won with the club. I have to earn it.”