BALTIMORE -- One of the most exciting parts of the Orioles' Spring Training camp this year should be getting to watch Manny Machado making the full-time move to shortstop. The All-Star infielder, who was able to get reps there last spring when he played short for the Dominican Republic team
BALTIMORE -- One of the most exciting parts of the Orioles' Spring Training camp this year should be getting to watch Manny Machado making the full-time move to shortstop. The All-Star infielder, who was able to get reps there last spring when he played short for the Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic, will man the position for the O's in his final year before hitting free agency.
As part of the move, which was announced officially last month at FanFest, Timothy Beckham will slide over from shortstop to third base and make the Orioles immediately more formidable up the middle. With the loss of longtime shortstop J.J. Hardy and manager Buck Showalter's desire to improve upon last year's defense, Machado should have a bigger impact at short than third.
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Why? First, Machado will be involved in more plays overall, which is obviously what you want when you're talking about the best defensive player on the team. Second, Machado's rapport with second baseman Jonathan Schoop can easily make them one of top -- if not the premier -- double-play combos in baseball.
Machado was originally drafted as a shortstop, and he moved to third base at Double-A Bowie to fill a need for the big league club in 2012. He won Gold Glove Awards at the hot corner in '13 and '15, but he has always pined for a move back to his original position.
While there is some concern about how the 25-year-old will hold up physically at a more demanding position, Machado has shown no ill effects from the surgeries he had on each knee earlier in his career. If the Orioles thought lateral movement would be an issue, Machado wouldn't be making the move.
After supplying a nightly highlight reel over at third base for years, Machado will get to showcase his range and arm even more at short. The move could also help his stock next offseason. The O's and Machado haven't discussed an extension in years, and he's expected to hit the open market.
Machado, who could get record-breaking money given his age and talent, could have even more suitors if he's able to play both shortstop and third base at a high level. The superstar will be looking to erase any doubts about his bat after the first half of 2017 saw the most prolonged slump of his career. Machado ended with a solid line of .259/.310/.471 with 33 home runs, but it wasn't consistent. He wasn't selected to the All-Star Game in his hometown of Miami, and he was open about his struggles at the plate, which often mirrored the Orioles' own offensive issues as a lineup.
Should Machado have a big bounce-back year at the plate, what might be his final season in Baltimore could truly be something special. While it remains to be seen if Beckham can handle third base, if he does, it could make the O's a stronger defensive club without any additions.
Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.