Will Middlebrooks back in starting lineup following wrist scare

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It was easy to think the worst when Will Middlebrooks left Wednesday’s Grapefruit League game after he experienced pain in his right wrist on a check swing, but fortunately for the Red Sox, it turned out to be a false alarm.

Middlebrooks was examined by a hand specialist, who determined that the flash of pain was likely scar tissue breaking up in the wrist which he broke when he was hit by a pitch last August. The 24-year-old took batting practice Thursday without incident and participated in normal pre-game activities yesterday, which Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe notes was enough for him to be cleared to return to the lineup at third base this afternoon against the Twins. Crisis averted, it seems.

Middlebrooks packed a punch prior to the injury last year, hitting .288/.325/.509 with 15 home runs, 54 RBI and an .835 OPS over his first 75 major league games. The Red Sox are banking on him to be a major part of their lineup moving forward.

The Orioles seem pretty serious about moving Manny Machado

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there has been no suggestion that the O’s and their young star have worked on a contract extension, strongly suggesting that Machado will test the open market next offseason.

While the Orioles have not said much about keeping him or trading him, yesterday considerable chatter filtered out here at the Winter Meetings suggests that they are serious about trading him now in order to get more than a draft pick in return when he eventually leaves Baltimore.

Jon Heyman reported yesterday that the Cardinals were a possible landing spot, and others have speculated that, at the moment, they’re the frontrunners for his services. Buster Olney, in a development that would make people go insane, I suspect, that the Yankees have expressed interest. It seems highly unlikely, though, that the Orioles would trade Machado within the division. Even if they did, they’d likely expect a premium from the Yankees that they would be unwilling to pay, especially given that they could easily wait Machado out until he was a free agent next year and give up nothing but cash for him. A couple of days ago we noted that the Phillies had expressed interest and the Orioles were doing their due diligence with respect to their farm system.

As far as the possible parameters of a deal, Ken Rosenthal reported that the O’s hope to acquire at least two controllable young starters in return. That’s a high price for a one-year Machado rental, but it makes sense for the Orioles to ask it. For Machado’s part, he reportedly wants to return to his original position, shortstop. He does not have no-trade protection, of course, so that may be a wish that is not fulfilled.

Machado had a down 2017, hitting .259/.310/.471, but still hit 33 homers and drove in 95 runs. In the two years prior, however, he posted OPSs of .876 and .861, and he’s still just 25. All of which is to say that the price for a team to acquire him will be high, even if he’s entering his walk year.