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If The Orioles Trade Manny Machado, Who Plays Third Base?

December 18, 2017
If the Baltimore Orioles trade Manny Machado this week, as is certainly possible, that could help solve an important question.
 
Trading their star third baseman should bring the Orioles at least one, and perhaps two, starting pitchers they can plug in behind right-handers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.
 
However, dealing off the 25-year-old also creates a vacancy at third base, and the Orioles will have to make a move or two to fill that glaring hole.
 
Ideally, the Orioles could get pitching and a third baseman in a Machado deal, but that doesn't seem likely.
 
So where would the Orioles' 2018 third baseman come from?
 
If the Orioles somehow don't trade Machado, he's likely to play shortstop for the team this season, displacing Tim Beckham, who was acquired in July to succeed J.J. Hardy at short.
 
The Orioles may not be sold on Beckham as a shortstop and may prefer to use him as a super utility player, something that may be necessary if manager Buck Showalter ends up carrying 13 pitchers and just three extra position players.
 
However, it's more likely that if Machado goes, Beckham starts the season at short. He's only started five games at third base in his career.
 
There don't seem to be any internal options on the team. Some fans have suggested the Orioles move Chris Davis from first base to third base and Trey Mancini from left field to first base.
 
Davis, who played at third for the Orioles in both 2011 and 2014 in addition to a start there this past season, has made himself an excellent first baseman, but pairing him with Beckham on the infield's left side would probably weaken the unit as a whole.
 
There isn't a major league-ready third baseman in the organization. Ryan Mountcastle, the 36th overall pick in the 2015 draft, moved from shortstop to third base when he was promoted to Double-A Bowie last summer. However, there are questions about his defense, and he's not a contender to start the season with the Orioles.
 
Drew Dosch, Triple-A Norfolk's third baseman, committed 23 errors in 104 games this past season, and his name has never come up in a discussion of top Orioles prospects.
 
While Showalter is eager to take a look at 24-year-old Luis Sardinas, a non-roster infielder acquired in May off waivers from the San Diego Padres, Sardinas, who's played parts of four seasons in the majors, projects more as a utility player than a third baseman.
 
MLBTradeRumors.com lists several third basemen who could be available in a trade. One intriguing name is the Pittsburgh Pirates' Josh Harrison, who is experienced in both the infield and outfield.
 
Chase Headley, who the New York Yankees traded to San Diego to create salary room for slugger Giancarlo Stanton, could be an effective third baseman for the Orioles next season.
 
The Padres are apparently eager to flip Headley, who is owed $13 million in 2018.
 
The list of available free-agent third basemen isn't terribly impressive outside of the Kansas City Royals' Mike Moustakas, and he's likely out of the Orioles' price range.
 
Other interesting names are veterans Todd Frazier, who finished last season with the Yankees, and Yunel Escobar, who played for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2017. The 35-year-old Escobar plays both third and shortstop.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox