Manny Machado doesn’t know where he’ll be playing in a season. Heck, he doesn’t know where he’ll be playing in a month. But the soon-to-be four-time All-Star knows what position he’ll be playing.
Prior to the final game of a two-game set against the Philadelphia Phillies – one of the teams that has been connected most frequently to Machado – he spoke about his desire to play his natural position of shortstop.
“I’m playing short,” Machado told the collective media, including Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “That’s the position I want to play. That’s the position I know I can play and produce.”
Machado, who won two Gold Glove Awards at third base, shifted back to his natural position of shortstop prior to 2018, a contract year. Defensive metrics haven’t been high on his move away from the hot corner. Between 2012 and 2017, Machado graded out as the best fielding third baseman in baseball. In 2018, he’s graded out as the 25th best fielding shortstop out of 25 qualified players.
Still, according to Jon Heyman, the Phillies are comfortable with the idea of signing Machado to play shortstop, where he said in Spring Training that his heart has always been at. There may be some feeling that as Machado gets reacclimated to shortstop, his defensive metrics will improve. But make no mistake, teams would prefer Machado as a third baseman, where he’s proven to be one of the game’s best fielders.
The reason teams will be willing to trade for or sign Machado to play shortstop is because of his immense offensive talent. Machado, in the waning days of his 25th year of life, entered Wednesday afternoon’s game in the midst of the best offensive season of his career. After a down year at the plate in 2017, Machado is slashing .311/.378/.565 with a 21.2 offensive WAR, 21 home runs and 59 RBIs.
There are mixed – though not necessarily conflicting – reports on how likely the Phillies are to acquire Machado this summer. Heyman reported last week that the Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers appear to be the two favorites to acquire Machado before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Tuesday that the Orioles are motivated to deal their franchise icon as soon as possible, under the belief they’ll get a larger return the quicker they move him. Rosenthal also added that the Orioles are high on J.P. Crawford. Still, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki says that while the Phillies have interest in Machado and continue to be connected to the 25-year-old, a trade for him this summer is unlikely.