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Examining the fallout from the Orioles' decision to put Manny Machado at shortstop

Jon Meoli, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Baseball

In assenting to Manny Machado's request to spend his last year before free agency at shortstop, the Orioles have showed their hand on a number of facets of both their short- and long-term planning around their star.

Machado playing shortstop won't dramatically change the composition of the 2018 Orioles -- he's really just swapping positions with Tim Beckham. But there's a lot that goes into it, and the impact could spread far beyond that pair.

Here are five pieces of fallout from the move announced this weekend, from the actual defensive impact to the possible ripples on Machado and Beckham's futures and the free agent market.

1. They might have their best defender at shortstop -- but it's not definite

Tim Beckham made quite an offensive impact after his July 31 trade to the Orioles, but his defense wasn't what the Orioles had had previously in J.J. Hardy. He made nine errors in 49 games to give him 18 at the position in 119 games between the Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays, and there was definitely some uncounted detriment when considering some of the outs lost on double plays with his arm.

But by advanced metrics, the difference between what the Orioles have in him and Machado isn't terribly large. Machado played 45 games at shortstop in 2016, starting 43, all while Hardy was out with a fractured foot. He made six errors and turned 33 double plays in that span -- the same number of double plays that Beckham turned in at shortstop with the Orioles.

By UZR/150, which credits or debits a fielder for the expected run value of a batted ball depending on whether he converts it into an out and averages it over a 150-game full season, Machado has a career 5.4 UZR at shortstop, while Beckham's is 2.7 (stats courtesy of FanGraphs). That, however, is owed mostly to a miserable -20.9 in 207 2/3 innings as a rookie in 2015. His UZR at shortstop was 11.5 in 2016 and 5.1 in 2017, his largest sample size.

According to defensive runs saved, Beckham has a career -1 and Machado has two in his career. And while Beckham has limited experience at third base, Machado has spent the last five years as an elite defender at the position. When he made the switch back upon Hardy's return in 2016, Showalter said Machado's long-term positional choice would hinge on whether he wanted to be the best defensive third baseman or a good defensive shortstop. It seems he's chosen the latter for 2018, even if its impact on what happens at third base is still yet to be measured.

2. Regardless of the future, a happy Manny makes this team better

Executive vice president Dan Duquette said two things countless times to both fans and the media on Saturday. One was that the success of the team hinges on somehow rebuilding the rotation around Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. The second is that the 2018 edition of the Orioles is going to be much better with Machado on it, regardless of the pitching.

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