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Red Sox 2, Orioles 0: Don't hold your breath for Manny Machado

Rob Bradford
June 12, 2018 - 2:00 am

BALTIMORE -- It was time to remember those rumors, the ones that cropped up suggesting the Red Sox were laser-focused on making a run at acquiring Manny Machado.

"Those," said one source Monday night, "were wildly overstated."

That shouldn't have come as a surprise. It never really made much sense considering Machado's contract expires at the end of this season and there would be virtually no chance getting the shortstop to sign an extension. And then there is the matter of the price of any such deal, which would surely necessitate the further gutting of the Red Sox' farm system.

Now we're sitting here with 1 1/2 months to go before the non-waiver trade deadline and Machado is lining up to be Major League Baseball's prize trade target. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal called the Orioles star "the best rental position player ever available at the deadline." Machado (who didn't play in the Red Sox' 2-0, 12-inning win over the Orioles Monday night) is hitting .312 with a .971 OPS and 18 homers. (For a complete recap, click here)

And guess what? A case could be made that the Red Sox are in a more logical position to make a run at Machado than they were in January. Such a player would immediately make Alex Cora's team the favorite to win the World Series, a notion that also rings true for the Yankees. And he can play a position (third base) where the Red Sox carry the third-worst OPS in the entire MLB.

It's still not going to happen. Why? Rafael Devers.

For virtually the entirety of Monday, there was little to suggest confidence was growing in the Red Sox' third baseman of the present and the future. The day before Devers was pinch-hit for the first time in his entire life. He was hitting just .232 with a .688 OPS, having committed more errors than anyone in baseball.

For the Red Sox, all of that didn't tell the story they wanted to tell when it comes to their 21-year-old slugger.

Monday offered a lot of what the team loves about Devers. The third baseman made multiple key plays in the field to help keep the Orioles scoreless, while fending off four not-so-great at-bats to finally come up with one of those left-center field gap shots he built his reputation on a year ago.

Before the game, Cora praised Devers' growth.

"It’s funny because there’s a lot of reaction there but it’s just for a little bit. I don’t think he’s slamming the bat like he did earlier in the season," the manager said, citing Devers' demeanor. "He understands. One thing we were talking about, one thing I told him, ‘Don’t let him know that you’re down because they're going to bury you. That’s the way it works at the big league level, nobody is feeling sorry for you.’ He’s done a good job. He’s showing up every day. Structure and preparation is improving and hopefully, he gets going sooner rather than later. We know the talent, what he can bring. Maybe now that he’s back to hitting sixth, Mookie is back, the lineup is falling into place, he’s probably relaxing a little bit and has a few guys in scoring position and has a ground ball and an RBI and gets going."

Then there was this after the game.

"He’s been good the whole season," Cora said of Devers' defense. "It all depends how you see it. If you believe in errors then he’s having a bad season but if you believe in range and everything that comes with numbers and all that for me he’s one of the best. He can range to his left, he’s under control now his arm is precise. He’s doing a good job for us."

That leads us back to Machado.

There is still somewhat of a leap of faith when it comes to Devers, one that certainly isn't needed with Machado. But considering the potential and glimpses shown by the current Red Sox' third baseman -- as was most recently exhibited in Camden Yards --  Dave Dombrowski and Co. feel comfortable making other corners of their roster the priority heading to the end of July.

Steven Wright continued his remarkable run in the Red Sox' starting rotation, not giving up a run over 6 2/3 innings. It was Wright's sixth straight scoreless outing, a streak that streches over 22 2/3 innings.

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