Will Manny Machado wind up at shortstop in 2018?

Now that J.J. Hardy is no longer on the team, which player on the Orioles would be the best defensive shortstop? The answer to that is almost certainly Manny Machado.

But would the Orioles move a player who has proven to be an elite defender at third base over to short?

There has been some discussion among national reporters recently on the topic and it was discussed during a segment Friday morning on MLB Network’s “Hot Stove.” We have yet to hear the thoughts on this from either manager Buck Showalter or vice president Dan Duquette. Maybe that is going to be among the topics discussed at the upcoming Winter Meetings.

But reporter Ken Rosenthal said yesterday that the Orioles “are undecided about his position for next year,” when discussing Machado and the 2018 season.

Machado-Throws-Gray-Sidebar.jpgThere are many questions a move of Machado to short would create. Does Tim Beckham just then move over to third base or else who plays the hot corner? Is this the best move for the team and player with one year left before Machado’s free agency? How would this impact Machado on offense? Does any consideration of moving Machado, if the team is in fact considering it, have anything to do with potential contract negotiations between the club and player?

Machado did not make a single start at shortstop last season, but he made 43 in 2016. That year he hit .301/.342/.526 with an OPS of .868 when playing at third base and .273/.347/.552 with an OPS of .899 when playing at short.

In his career, he has an OPS of .882 in 221 plate appearances while playing at shortstop and an OPS of .799 in 3,144 plate appearances when playing at third.

But short is no doubt much more demanding physically and mentally, and you have to wonder if playing there would take a toll on Machado’s offense over a long season. Also, what happens at third base? Would the Orioles be fixing something that is not broken here if they moved Machado?

There are those that believe taking a player who has been an elite defender at third and putting him at short is just foolish. But Machado was signed as a shortstop, played there throughout his career in the minors and no doubt could be an above-average shortstop - and maybe in time come to be among the best in the game at the position. And it might not take much time. This kid has the skills with the glove and arm, as we’ve seen.

But there is no guarantee that would happen. And Machado’s offense might suffer. And didn’t the Orioles trade for Beckham with the intention that he would be at short next season?

What about looking at this from Machado’s standpoint. What if he was moved and struggled on offense, defense or both? Would it put a dent in his ability to break the bank in free agency?

Machado is no doubt a very good option to play at short for the Orioles next season. But that doesn’t mean it is the best move for player or team.

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