Orioles' Manny Machado has no intention of returning to third base in free agency: 'I'm playing short'

Manny Machado is back where he feels at home, and he has no intention of leaving it. The Orioles moved Machado to shortstop this season after playing him at third base for most of his career (he had 52 games at short between 2015 and 2016, with 45 of those games coming in 2016), and he says that in free agency he doesn't plan on returning to the hot corner.

"I'm playing short," Machado said to  the Baltimore Sun's Jon Meoli. "That's the position I want to play. That's the position I know I can play and produce."

Machado will be an unrestricted free agent heading into the 2019 season, but he's also the product of numerous trade talks this year. He now has 715 career games at third and 135 at short, including 84 this season. His fielding percentage at third for his career is .968 vs. his shortstop percentage of .952. However, Machado's .980 so far would be a career-high for him in percentage if it holds.

"I've been a shortstop my entire life," Machado added to Meoli. "I've played third base for a couple years. I did well, and I thought I was an elite player at that position, but at the end of the day, I've been a shortstop my entire life. I know I can be a way better player as a shortstop than I can at third."

However, while Machado's fielding percentage is above league average, the Orioles rank below league average at the shortstop position in total zone fielding runs above average (negative-12, 28th in MLB), defensive runs saved above average (negative-20, last in MLB) and plus/minus fielding runs above average (negative-19, last in MLB). Should Machado be traded to a contender, he may have to compromise for the rest of the season before he hits free agency.

Teams reportedly talking to the Orioles -- who are currently dead last in the AL and almost certainly moving Machado at the deadline -- include the Phillies, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Indians, Braves, Diamondbacks and Brewers. With the Phillies and Cardinals listed as front-runners, he could still get his wish. If the Indians got him, he would almost surely need to move back. The Phillies need shortstop help badly enough that they could keep Machado at short, but a move to the Cardinals would likely require a move back to third for Machado so that Matt Carpenter can be reinstalled at first while Jose Martinez stays in the outfield.

Machado can do whatever he wants as an unrestricted free agent, but part of going to a team at the trade deadline is making yourself a fit. He may have to make some concessions for the latter part of this season, but either way, in free agency he's making his intentions clear. He wants to be signed as a shortstop.

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