PEORIA, Ariz. -- Manny Machado is a two-time Gold Glove Award-winning third baseman and one of the most valuable defensive players of the past decade. After a year at shortstop, he's headed back to the hot corner in San Diego.
"Coming here to come play third base, I saw it as an opportunity," Machado said.
The move certainly fits the Padres' short- and long-term trajectories. In the short term, Machado’s presence at third fills the most glaring void in the starting lineup. Prospect Luis Urias is expected to open the season at short, with Ian Kinsler at second.
In the long term, the fit at third base is even clearer. The arrival of Fernando Tatis Jr., MLB's No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, is on the horizon, and when that happens, Urias and Kinsler will battle for time at second.
The situation is similar to the one Machado faced early in his career. He could've played a solid shortstop for his first six seasons in Baltimore, but the Orioles had J.J. Hardy there, so they asked Machado to play third base. In that regard, the Padres were honest from the start about where they viewed Machado.
"From our first conversation, it was if we were going to get involved, he was going to play third base," general manager A.J. Preller said. "In Baltimore, they explained to him that their best club was with J.J. at short and Manny at third. He said, 'I just want to win games.' With us, he said, 'If your best glove is a young shortstop who can play that spot, I just want to win.'"
Machado's arrival gives the Padres a better chance to win. His presence at third base probably makes that more true. Machado has been worth 84 Defensive Runs Saved at third base and minus-11 at short. Plus, there's the matter of Tatis, who has developed into a well-above-average Minor League shortstop.
Machado met Tatis last summer during All-Star week in Washington, where Tatis was slated to play in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.
"He's a beast," Machado said. "Have you seen him? ... The guy's an absolute beast. He reminds me of myself when I was 20, 19 years old. But I didn't have that height. Or that power."
The feeling’s mutual. Earlier this week, Tatis called Machado his "favorite player since five years ago." He watched Machado's highlights regularly as a teenager.
During his introductory press conference, Machado raved about Tatis' skill set, adding that he’d do whatever it takes to bring out the best in the 20-year-old shortstop prodigy.
"He's just a great player," Machado said. "He has all the tools. He can run, he can field, he's got power. He can do it all.
"Coming here, playing third base, I'm going to try to help him the way J.J. Hardy helped me out when I got called up. He was a big influence. I got my Gold Gloves because of J.J., having him next to me. Hopefully I can do the same for him and teach him everything I know. Hopefully he takes it, and if not, I'm gonna get on him."
There's no better way to learn, says Padres manager Andy Green.
"Manny’s always been an incredibly instinctual player," Green said. "He’s got a great feel for the game. That’s one of the attributes we value in Fernando, and to have somebody out there that has those same types of instincts, that same type of feel, that’s going to push him along a lot faster sometimes than coaches can."