Media rumor circus makes stop for Cubs at Wrigley Field — Manny Machado next?

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Manny Machado (No. 10) and Albert Almora Jr. (far right) on the day of their first practice for an organized team, two decades ago in Miami. /Photo courtesy Almora family

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo waited for the cameras to get into position and waited for the writers to assemble.

But he didn’t have to wait for a question before the opener of the five-game homestand Tuesday to know what was coming.

“I should have worn an orange shirt today,” he said as the media scrum settled in at his locker.

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It was one of the few things missing — the Orioles’ orange and black — as the Manny Machado media circus visited Wrigley Field, just 10 miles north of where Machado actually played against the White Sox.

The Orioles’ superstar shortstop — and best friend of Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr. — is the center of attention in town this week.

The Cubs plan to explore a trading deadline deal for Machado, according to sources, as first reported two weeks ago by the Sun-Times.At least one national report since then suggested the Cubs are the favorites to land the young slugger.

“We have no control [over that],” Rizzo said. “I do know that I’ve seen rumors long enough that it’ll be rumors until Aug. 1, until the deadline’s over. We’re just starting a little early this year, in May.’’

That’s what makes this one so unique. The Orioles’ miserable start began a rumor mill early for the best hitter.

Almora, who talked with the Sun-Times earlier this month about lobbying the front office to acquire the friend he calls his “cousin,” hopes to get together with Machado for lunch this week.

But it won’t be about business.

“When we talk, we talk about family,” said Almora, who was 3 and Machado was 4 when they first played on the same baseball team in Miami.

Whatever Theo Epstein’s front office is able to pull off between now and the July 31 deadline, Cubs players say they’re not talking about the rumors and seem sensitive to teammate Addison Russell, who would almost certainly have to be involved for the Cubs to make such a trade work.

“Our front office is one that has always been one to make moves, and they’re not afraid to do things,” third baseman Kris Bryant said. “We’ve seen that. We won a World Series because of that, getting [Aroldis] Chapman and some of the other guys we got.

“But we don’t put one ounce of thought into that because we’re happy with the guys that we have here. The effort that everybody puts forth day in and day out when they’re on the field is spectacular.

“Until someone’s gone or whatever, we’re going to play with who we’ve got and continue to play the way we have.”

Russell, 24, said over the weekend that he doesn’t pay attention to the rumors.

“The age that he’s at, the experience level that he’s at, I think that it just can’t help but have an impact,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He would be robotic if it did not.”

As much as Almora relishes the idea of sharing a clubhouse with Machado, he doesn’t want to see any teammate go.

“We have a special team here,” he said. “It’s up to the front-office guys to make those kinds of decisions. We have a great team here as we stand. We’ll see what happens.”

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