ATLANTA – Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed says he doesn’t read about any of the trade rumors that bounce around the game this time every year. He doesn’t watch what’s on TV, either, unless it happens to be on when he’s in or passing through the clubhouse.
So blocking out the Diamondbacks’ reported pursuit of the biggest name on the trade market, the Baltimore Orioles’ Manny Machado, a player who happens to play the same position as Ahmed, isn’t as difficult as one might imagine.
“I try to be good about what I’m letting into my mind and my heart,” Ahmed said, “and just filling it up with the right stuff.”
On Friday night in Atlanta, Ahmed continued to look like a player who isn’t the least bit distracted. With two more hits in the Diamondbacks’ 2-1 win over the Atlanta Braves, including the go-ahead single to center in the seventh, he continued an offensive surge he’s been on for the better part of six weeks.
BOX SCORE: Diamondbacks 2, Braves 1
Ahmed is not Machado, not even close. Machado is widely regarded as one of the best players in baseball, a 26-year-old superstar who figures to command a nine-figure contract that starts with a “2” or even a “3” when he hits free agency this winter.
But dwelling on this fact would do Ahmed no good. And so he doesn’t do it. During the two minutes he spent answering questions about how he handles trade rumors, he never acknowledged Machado’s existence – or the possibility that the Diamondbacks could land him.
“You show up and if I’m in the lineup, I’m going to go out and play as hard as I can,” Ahmed said. “And if not, I might come off the bench and play as hard as I can. It doesn’t change anything with me. Nothing I can spend any mental energy worrying about or thinking about.”
Said teammate Alex Avila: “It’s the same story every year with guys that get rumored, whether they’re going to be traded or that someone is going to come in who plays their position. You can’t worry about that stuff. It’s completely out of your control. If you start doing that, you just dig yourself into a hole.”
Catcher Alex Avila discusses Zack Godley’s performance in the Diamondbacks’ 2-1 win over the Atlanta Braves.
In some ways, Ahmed has been in this sort of position before. He came up with the Diamondbacks at a time when they had Chris Owings and Didi Gregorius also fighting for time at shortstop. In recent years, they have traded for two other shortstops in Jean Segura and Ketel Marte.
And yet, when healthy, Ahmed always has found his way into the Diamondbacks’ lineup at their most important defensive position – in large part because of his glove and the impact he makes on that side of the ball.
But that is beginning to change. He isn’t exactly an offensive force – but nor can he be deemed an automatic out anymore, either. Especially lately. Since the beginning of June, Ahmed is hitting .273/.331/.485. With an OPS (on-base-plus-slugging) of .725, Ahmed ranks in the middle of the pack of qualifying major-league shortstops, an accomplishment that’s far greater than most scouts predicted when he first reached the majors.
“I feel like I’m doing more damage this year,” Ahmed said. “If you look at a stat like the batting average, it’s lower than I’d obviously like. But I’m doing more damage and I’m hitting the ball hard consistently, at least if you exclude May.”
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo talks about his team’s win over the Braves after dropping the past two games in Colorado.
Even counting May, Ahmed is doing more of the things he talks about doing. His batting average and on-base might be low, but entering Friday, his hard-hit rate and slugging percentage were way up, his ground-ball rate way down.
No one will confuse him for Machado. But neither should the Diamondbacks feel desperate to upgrade at shortstop. Not that he’s thinking either way about what the front office might do.
“I don’t know, guys,” he told reporters after a fourth question on the subject. “I’m honestly not really worried about it. You can keep asking questions, but it’s not a thought in my mind at all.”
Reach Piecoro at (602) 444-8680 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickpiecoro.
Diamondbacks right-hander Zack Godley talks about his night against the Braves, whom he held to one run in six innings at SunTrust Park.