Revisiting Machado at shortstop and a look at Hosmer’s free agency

If Manny Machado is an Oriole in 2018, we still don’t know if he will be playing at third base or moved to shortstop, a position he has played before in the majors but not last season.

An argument against moving Machado is that he has been an elite defender at third base, winning the Platinum Glove after the 2013 season. That goes to the best defender in the league, no matter the position.

One argument for moving Machado is that shortstop is a premium defensive positon and he would be involved in more plays there. Likely many more.

In 2017, Machado ranked second in the American League among third baseman in total chances with 425 to 454 for Kyle Seager of Seattle. He had 297 assists to 310 for Seager. But the leader in chances at shortstop, which was Elvis Andrus of Texas, handled 755 total chances with 493 assists. Kansas City’s Alcides Escobar was second with 685 total chances and 468 assists.

Machado-Throws-Gray-Sidebar.jpgWouldn’t you want Machado being involved in 250 or 300 more chances on defense? He would probably have the best range of anyone on the roster at short and no doubt be able to impact games with his arm much more.

Yes, you then have to answer the question of who plays at third base, but Machado’s defensive impact could be so much more prevalent while playing shortstop. Plus, he obviously seems motivated to take on the challenge and clearly has been said to be all for such a move.

As part of a double-play combo with second baseman Jonathan Schoop, the Orioles might actually turn more double plays. They would have two big arms at work up the middle to get the most on throws to first base to get more outs on close plays on the back end of the double play.

But the shortstop position is also more physically and mentally demanding than third and could impact a player on offense. Would that be a concern for the Orioles?

“Yeah, but it depends on who it is,” manager Buck Showalter said at the Winter Meetings. “I’ve actually seen it affect some guys positively, where they weren’t constantly thinking about their hitting. But the concentration level and regardless of how you are hitting, for Tim (Beckham) or Manny or J.J. (Hardy), that is such an important position. But they are all important.

“It is something we weren’t that good at last year. I was not happy with our defense in the outfield and the infield compared to the standard we’ve set. And it is something we are going to get better at.”

Meanwhile, baseball free agency can be strange. Few players have signed at this point, but while that is true, first baseman Eric Hosmer may be on the verge of getting a real nice contract. And not from a big spendor.

The two teams offering him big dollars, per various reports, are not the Dodgers, Yankees or Red Sox. They are the Padres and Royals, neither considered to be a contender next year. Just what are those teams doing here?

While many free agents await big offers, Hosmer may have a seven-year deal worth $140 million to ponder from San Diego and a seven-year deal worth $147 million from Kansas City, his current club.

The 28-year-old Hosmer picked a good time to have his best year in 2017. He hit .318/.385/.498 with 31 doubles, 25 homers, 94 RBIs and with an .882 OPS.

But for his career, his slugging percentage is .439 and his OPS is .781. Chris Davis has career numbers of .490 and .818. Hosmer does exceed Davis easily in career batting average (.284 to .246) and on-base percentage (.342 to .328). He has also won Gold Glove Awards and is considered a clubhouse leader.

There is a lot to like about Hosmer. But his Wins Above Replacement (WAR) numbers since 2014 in order are 0.4, 3.6, 1.6 and 4.8. He was considered the equivalent of no better than a role player twice in four seasons.

So that warrants $140 million? Maybe the difference maker here is agent Scott Boras. He got Davis seven years and $161 million and may be about to get Hosmer a similar deal.

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