If Orioles third baseman Manny Machado is destined to leave Baltimore after the 2018 season, I get it. I may rail against management for sitting on their hands and waiting too long to get a fairer return, but, hey, there's no crying in baseball.
Everybody who knows the rules of engagement knows that a player goes from first-year arbitration eligible to second-year arbitration to free agency. The Orioles never could quite wrap their arms around Machado in time -- although I have heard MLB Radio's Jim Bowden say the sides were only a few million dollars apart a few years back, with the Orioles afraid of a lengthy deal because of Machado's knee issues.
But with all the Machado news circulating, the most troubling thing is this notion that the Orioles see a benefit in having the All-Star third baseman move to shortstop.
My desire to see Machado at third base in what figures to be his final season with the Orioles isn't out of any sort of retribution toward him for not allowing the O's the opportunity to lock him up for the next seven-to-10 years. Machado should stay at the hot corner because the O's are better with him at third base while also finding out if Tim Beckham -- with the hard work he's put in with third base coach Bobby Dickerson -- can be the long-term answer at shortstop.
And if the Orioles already think Beckham cannot be that answer, then shame on them for trading solid 19-year-old pitching prospect Tobias Myers for a part-time performer.
But getting back to Machado, the Orioles are, quite simply, a better team with him at third base.
Third base is a much more reflexive position, and Machado's dual knee surgeries have not slowed him down simply because there isn't time to slow down. At shortstop, Machado could be a step too slow to get into position to use his howitzer arm in time to record outs. In fact, I think his arm strength and slower movement to the ball will open him up for too many throwing errors to win a Gold Glove at the more demanding position.
Most inside the game know that Machado at third base is something special. So, what could the Orioles' reasoning be to have Machado at short? Do they feel that without moving Machado to shortstop, he'll be less than enthralled to give his all? Or, maybe they feel if they suck up to him and give him what he wants, that'll up their chances at signing him.
First of all, Machado should be both enthralled and engaged to play this season, for which he’ll earn more than $17 million. Secondly, the Orioles chances for signing Machado long-term will not be purely about the dollars.
As I have said throughout the past two seasons, Machado's decision was made for him when the Orioles failed to prove their true commitment to winning. And if the team only has one more year with Machado in orange and black, it should be as competitive of a club as it can -- and that means leaving him at third.
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