BALTIMORE (AP) Even if Manny Machado doesn’t switch teams this season, he almost certainly will be changing his position in the infield.
Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Saturday that Machado will move from third base to shortstop this spring, and shortstop Tim Beckham will be shifted to third.
The shuffle will become permanent unless something goes wrong – or Machado gets traded to another club.
”There could be some adjustments if we don’t like the feel of it, but that’s where we’re going to head into it,” Showalter said at FanFest, an annual offseason event designed to promote interest in the club.
Machado and second baseman Jonathan Schoop did not attend.
Machado becomes a free agent after this year and is sure to demand a huge contract. The Orioles have entertained trade offers for the 25-year-old, who’s been an All-Star in three of his six seasons with Baltimore.
Dan Duquette, vice president of baseball operations for the Orioles, has to decide whether to deal Machado sometime between now and September or seek to sign him to a long-term deal.
”That’s a big decision for the organization, obviously,” Duquette said. ”But we’re planning on Manny being with the club. We explored all those options. We think the strongest option is for Manny to be on the ballclub.”
Machado played in 156 games last season, offsetting a career-low .259 batting average with 33 home runs and 95 RBIs. He has averaged 35 home runs and 92 RBIs over the past three years.
Machado avoided arbitration this month by agreeing to a $16 million contract for 2018. He received $11.5 million last season.
Drafted as a shortstop as the third overall pick in 2010, Machado played third base with Baltimore next to slick-fielding J.J. Hardy, whose contract expired after last season.
So when they return to the field next month in Florida, the Orioles will have Machado at shortstop with Beckham on his left. Beckham came to Baltimore from Tampa Bay in July and played shortstop for the injured Hardy over the final two months.
”I think Tim would rather play shortstop, as Manny would,” Showalter said. ”Tim’s big thing is getting an opportunity to play every day at one position. We need to settle both those guys into a spot and let them get into it.”
Showalter said Machado was enthusiastic about the switch.
”All indications are, he’s really excited about this,” Showalter said. ”I can’t imagine him being in a better frame of mind or setup to do this. I think out of his respect for J.J. the past few years he’s been very professional about it. But it’s not like he’s changing positions. He’s going back to the position he’s equipped to play.”
Deciding what to do with Machado is only one problem Duquette has faced this offseason. He’s also been trying to fill out a starting rotation that currently consists of Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and perhaps Miguel Castro, who made his first major league start on Sept. 30 after pitching in relief for 75 games over three seasons.
”Obviously we have work to do to address some of the deficiencies on our ballclub,” Duquette said. ”We’re going to continue to build our pitching staff, most notably the starting pitching.”
If Castro joins the rotation, the Orioles will be further pressed to fill out the back end of the bullpen. Closer Zach Britton tore his Achilles tendon during an offseason workout and will likely miss the entire 2018 season, leaving setup man Brad Brach the odds-on favorite to take over as the stopper.
”I’m hoping I get a shot to close. I’d be lying if I say I didn’t,” said Brach, who served significant time as a closer in 2017 while Britton was sidelined with elbow and knee issues.
Brach had 18 saves but blew six chances.
”I think I did all right,” Brach said. ”Hopefully, I get another chance to do it.”
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