Thursday, August 9, 2012

O's surprisingly promote Manny Machado to Baltimore

After the Orioles completed their three-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners with a 9-2 win last night, I went to bed. So I missed the flood of stories around midnight saying the O's were calling up Manny Machado from Bowie to play third base for the major league club. Machado, 20, is considered the O's second-best prospect behind Dylan Bundy and is a top 10 prospect in all of baseball.

Instead of making a major trade at the deadline, promoting Machado is arguably the biggest move the O's could have made (outside of promoting Bundy straight to Baltimore instead of to Bowie), and it's probably something that Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette have discussed before. Machado, who's hitting .266/.350/.431 at Bowie (and was named Eastern League Player of the Week just a couple days ago), has almost exclusively played shortstop in his time in the minors, but it wouldn't make much sense to move J.J. Hardy from the position, because even though he's not hitting all that well, he's still playing outstanding defense at the position. There's no guarantee that Machado would do the same, and it's unknown how long he'll be with the team. Still, the O's are promoting Machado for a reason: They think he's good enough right now, and at 60-51, they want him to help them win more games.

Buck Showalter echoed that sentiment in his comments after the game:

So, will Machado help the team? If he plays every day, which he should if he's on the big league club, he'll be replacing the third base platoon of Wilson Betemit and Robert Andino. Betemit will likely still DH some and get occasional starts in the field to keep his bat in the lineup against right-handed pitching, but Andino will probably be relegated to more of a utility role since Omar Quintanilla has taken over the regular second base duties. Overall, Andino is hitting .227/.292/.318 and Betemit is batting .263/.323/.427, so neither guy is really a superior option offensively. Machado probably won't be much better right away -- and it may be unfair to expect that he will be -- but he may be able to be decent defensively while hitting better than Andino -- sort of a combination of the two's skills. Still, Machado has never played much third base, and now he'll be doing so at the highest level. (Apparently Machado took "a lot of ground balls at third" during his time in Bowie, according to manager Gary Kendall. So that's good, I guess.)

I'm not sure if Machado is ready or that it's a smart move to bring him up right now. I guess we'll find out over the next few weeks and months. As with most player promotions, fan opinions are mixed. But there's one thing this move definitely is: bold. It's an extremely bold move. I'm sure the team's current record played a part in the decision, but then again, if the O's were 20 games out of first place, wouldn't it almost make just as much sense to play Machado every day in the majors if they thought he was ready? Possibly, I guess.

But here's the cool part of all of this: Now we get to watch Machado play on a team that's currently tied for the lead in the wild card standings. Regardless of how good this team actually is or if they can stick around through late August into September, that's pretty exciting.