Manny Machado answers trade, free-agent questions — in Chicago, this time

The Orioles are visiting the south side of Chicago for a four-game set with the White Sox, but the possible future of Baltimore star Manny Machado with the north side’s Cubs was all the rage Monday.

As he’s done all season, Machado defected questions swirling around trade rumors and his impending free agency this offseason.

I go out there and play baseball. I’m not getting distracted by any of this, Machado told reporters. All these talks, rumors, they’re all rumors and talks. At the end of the day I got to go out there and perform and win games for this ballclub.

The Cubs are considered a favorite to land Machado if/when he changes uniforms. At 25-19 they trail the Brewers and Cardinals in the NL Central and haven’t gotten much production from 24-year-old shortstop Addison Russell, who is batting .262/.316/.404 with only one homer run and 10 RBIs in 41 games.

By effectively cutting ties with the veteran, the Red Sox will have to eat the more than $15 million Ramirez, 34, is owed for the rest of the 2018 season. But, as The Boston Globe noted, the Sox avoid a potentially awkward situation related to his $22 million vesting option for 2019 had he reached 497 plate appearances this year, which at his current pace — he has 195 — seemed all but assured if he remained in the lineup.

The situation is an odd turn in a season in which Ramirez began as a force in the middle of the AL East-leading Red Sox’s lineup. Proclaiming himself fit after offseason left-shoulder surgery, he slashed .330/.400/.474 with three homers in April. Things have fallen off since, and yet he ranks third on the team with 44 starts and has batted in the No. 3 spot in the lineup in 38 of the team’s 50 games.

Through 44 games, Ramirez is hitting .245/.313/.395.

In short, his continued struggles, which reminded the team of his problems in 2017 and back to 2015, left him vulnerable. His defense at first base couldn’t make up for his offensive liabilities, especially with former Gold Glover Mitch Moreland also available.

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