As a byproduct of some offseason strategizing by their respective teams, position switches for established talents like Ryan Braun, Asdrubal Cabrera, Benjamin Zobrist, Zack Cozart and Manny Machado -- all former All-Stars -- have been a major storyline in the Major Leagues this year. With so much movement, all the
As a byproduct of some offseason strategizing by their respective teams, position switches for established talents like Ryan Braun, Asdrubal Cabrera, Benjamin Zobrist, Zack Cozart and Manny Machado -- all former All-Stars -- have been a major storyline in the Major Leagues this year. With so much movement, all the unfamiliarity began to feel … kind of normal.
Machado's move to his native shortstop spot after years of deferring to J.J. Hardy and playing third was the only switch made as a matter of personal preference, and it has paid off for the free-agent-to-be. Machado -- who has already emerged as this summer's most sought-after trade target -- edged out Carlos Correa for the starting shortstop nod in Tuesday's All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, and has pumped up his value both at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline and this winter.
Braun moved to first in the wake of the Brewers' acquisitions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain for their outfield, although he's manned the infield sparingly thanks to the emergence of National League All-Star Final Vote winner Jesus Aguilar.
The real repercussions of this late-career role change occurred to Braun upon his arrival to the Brewers' spring camp.
"I don't know if this is R-rated," Braun said with a grin, "but in the outfield, not too many guys wear a cup. So I haven't worn a cup in over 10 years. I'll have to get one of those before I get super comfortable taking ground balls again."
Heck, Cozart had already agreed to move from short to second base to sign with the Angels, who have the great Andrelton Simmons at short, when he was informed the club had a trade in the works for second baseman Ian Kinsler. His potential new club asked if he would be willing to move to third. So, Cozart technically changed positions twice before even putting pen to paper. Before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, the 2017 All-Star logged at least 15 games at shortstop, second and third for Los Angeles this season.
"I wasn't going to say no," Cozart said. "I didn't want to be the guy coming into camp who was the reason we nixed the Kinsler trade. I want to win; it's as simple as that."
Quite a few great players were All-Stars at multiple spots, and some of their stories are worth highlighting in a year in which the switch was on.
Cal Ripken Jr.
We remember Ripken as a rock of reliability. For more than 16 years, if you went to an Orioles game, you saw Ripken play. And for the vast majority of those years, if you saw Ripken play, you saw him at shortstop. He had made 14 All-Star Games as a shortstop by July 15, 1996, when the Iron Man demonstrated his malleability at Baltimore's behest and was written into Davey Johnson's lineup at third base.
"He's been an All-Star shortstop," Johnson told the Washington Post, "and he'll be an All-Star third baseman."
The O's wanted to get a look at young Manny Alexander at short, and, uh, it only took them six games to pull the plug on that experiment. But they were committed to the idea of getting the aging Ripken, then 35 years old, away from the physical demands of the position, so that offseason they signed Mike Bordick to be their starting shortstop, cementing Ripken at the hot corner.
"A lot of people think it's easy to change positions," Ripken told the Post. "It's an adjustment. It's an adjustment I'm going to have to make."
Ripken made 22 errors in his first full season at third, but he made the adjustment over time. And as popular as he was, he'd go on to make every All-Star team through his final season in 2001 -- the year Alex Rodriguez implored him to trade spots in the infield so that Ripken could log one final Midsummer Classic inning at short.
Speaking of A-Rod, that awesome moment of All-Star acquiescence wasn't the last time we'd see him shift from short to third in capitulation toward a premier player. When a trade between the Rangers and Yankees proved possible in advance of the 2004 season, A-Rod's agent, Scott Boras, called him to broach the idea of playing third in the Bronx, where Derek Jeter was staying put at short.
"You'd have to decide what the shortstop position means to you," said Boras, as later recounted in Sports Illustrated, "and understand what you'd be giving up for a chance to win. Think about it."
Rodriguez, who had made seven American League All-Star teams and won two Gold Glove Awards as a shortstop, thought about it for all of a day before agreeing to make the move. And for seven of the next eight seasons, he was an All-Star third baseman, winning two of his three career AL MVP Awards at the hot corner.
Amazingly, Yaz ranks fifth all time for the Red Sox in games played at first base. Why is that amazing? Because he played north of 1,900 games in left field! In a remarkably long, durable and productive career that spanned 23 seasons and 3,308 games, it didn't really matter where Yaz happened to bring his glove; Boston fans came to expect elegance in the field and production at the plate, and that's why he was an All-Star 18 times.
He won six Gold Glove Awards as a left fielder before making the initial shift to first base in 1973 on account of Dwight Evans' promotion to the big leagues. His spot at first was even more solidified in '75, when Jim Rice came up. Yaz wound up with only five seasons in which he was primarily a first baseman, but logged an additional two in which he played 50-plus games at the position. He started six Midsummer Classics as an outfielder and one ('79) as a first baseman.
Biggio's first All-Star season was winding down in 1991. He had enjoyed a bit of a breakout year offensively, and he was well-regarded by his pitching staff for his work behind the plate. So Biggio was basically blindsided when Astros bench coach Matt Galante asked him how he'd feel about moving to second base. Houston had incentive to make the move to preserve the 25-year-old Biggio's legs and ensure his body could handle another decade or so of big league ball, but for Biggio, it was a daunting development.
"When you're a catcher in your comfort zone, and all of a sudden, you're starting to figure that out, and then you have to play a new position that you never played in your life before?" Biggio told MLB.com in 2015. "That could have been a career-ender for me."
This just in: It wasn't. Biggio was an All-Star again in 1992, and five more times beyond that. He won four consecutive Gold Glove Awards at second from 1994-97, and the successful switch was a big element in Biggio's Hall of Fame career. He switched positions one more time, logging a two-year stint in the outfield from 2003-04, but moved back to second for his final three seasons.
Getting selected to 17 All-Star Games is impressive enough. But Rose, the only player in Major League history to play 500 games at five different positions, holds the distinction of having started the Midsummer Classic at a record five different spots over the course of his career -- second base (1965), left field (1973-74), right field ('75), third base ('76, '78) and first base (1981-82). Position changes were common in Rose's 24-year career. Just not quite as common as hits.
Initially called up to the big leagues by the Brewers in 1988 as a 19-year-old shortstop, Sheffield shifted to third the following season. As a third baseman, he would be traded twice (first to the Padres, then to the Marlins) and make back-to-back All-Star squads in '92 and '93. The Marlins moved him to the outfield in '94, and Sheffield went on to hit north of 500 homers as an outfielder and DH and make seven more All-Star teams.
At this point, when most baseball fans think of Torre, they think of all the innings he logged in the dugout as one of the game's most accomplished skippers. But his playing career was pretty special, too. Torre logged north of 4,000 innings at first base, third base and catcher.
He started the 1966 All-Star Game as the NL's backstop, catching for the legendary Sandy Koufax. Five years later, he was the starting third baseman, en route to winning the 1971 NL MVP Award for the Cardinals. And two years after that, he was an NL reserve at first.
When Torre made the move from catcher to third base for that MVP year, he didn't just change positions. He changed his body. With the help of the Stillman diet -- one of the first low-carbohydrate plans -- he shed about 20 pounds before arriving at Spring Training, and the weight loss helped with his mobility in the infield.
"I must have been the only MVP in history who received more requests for a diet program than for an autograph," he later joked.
The Cubs felt they had a choice to make between two great hitters after 1988: Rafael Palmeiro or Mark Grace?
By that point, the team was convinced Palmeiro was a first baseman, even though he had made the NL All-Star team as a left fielder in 1988. Ultimately, it decided Grace's power potential at first was greater than that of Palmeiro, so it shipped Palmeiro to the Rangers.
Over the next 17 seasons in Texas and Baltimore, Palmeiro hit 544 homers and 525 doubles, so power was no issue. He was an All-Star first baseman two times and an All-Star DH once before all was said and done, though he would tell the Chicago Tribune in 2002 that he could have made it work in left, if given the chance.
"It would have worked out fine," Palmeiro said. "I don't think I would be any different as a player. Left field was no problem."
Luckily for Palmeiro, like the rest of these players, he adapted and thrived in his new position.
This story appears in the 2018 All-Star Game Program. Order your copy here.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.