Buck Showalter: Manny Machado to play shortstop for Orioles in 2018
Machado will get to play his natural position before becoming a free agent
After five-and-a-half seasons in the big leagues, Manny Machado is finally moving to his natural position full-time.
Machado has played some shortstop in the big leagues, most notably spending 45 games at the position when J.J. Hardy was injured in 2016, but by and large he has been a third basemen with the O's.
On one hand, moving to shortstop raises Machado's valuable immensely. He's a fantastic fielder who can handle the position defensively, so putting him at the up-the-middle position helps the Orioles. It also helps his Fantasy value.
On the other hand, the O's are not adding a new player at third base. They're just flipping Machado and Beckham, so while Machado gains value with the move, Beckham loses a little something by moving to the less-valuable position. They're rearranging the furniture, not knocking out a wall and remodeling.
Also, keep in mind Machado has had surgery on both knees already in his career. Asking him to move so much laterally at shortstop might not be the best thing, defensively. It's not necessarily the potential for another knee injury -- though that is a concern -- it's that his lateral mobility may not be what it once was. Obviously the O's feel this is worthwhile, however.
Moving from third to short in his final season before free agency will ostensibly help Machado's free agent stock, though I'm not sure how true that is. I think there's a better chance it hurts his stock more than it helps. Right now, potentially interested teams are probably assuming Machado can play short. If he played third base all year, they'd still look at him as a shortstop candidate.
But, if Machado plays short this season and shows diminished range, it could hurt him a bit. The assumption now is he can play shortstop. Playing the position and playing it well won't tell teams something they don't know. Now, that said, Machado is going to get paid no matter what position he plays, and he'll still cash in huge as a free agent regardless of position.
Machado, 25, is a two-time Gold Glover at third and he'll try to bounce back from his subpar .259/.310/.471 (107 OPS+) batting line with 33 home runs in 2017 -- subpar by his standards, anyway -- with a strong 2018 season heading into free agency. Beckham is under team control through 2020 and hit .306/.348/.523 (131 OPS+) with the O's last year.
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