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Showalter: Machado to play SS in 2018

David Maxwell / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Manny Machado is getting his wish.

Machado, who has spent virtually his entire big-league career at third base, will play shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles in 2018 in his final season before free agency, manager Buck Showalter confirmed Saturday. Tim Beckham, who played shortstop down the stretch last season after coming over from the Tampa Bay Rays in a July trade, will move over to third, while newly minted All-Star Jonathan Schoop will continue to hold down second base.

"[Machado’s] really excited about this, and I can’t imagine him being in a better frame of mind of physically set up to do this," Showalter told Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. "I think of the respect for J.J. (Hardy) the last 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."

Earlier this offseason, as his name swirled in trade rumors, Machado - a three-time All-Star with a pair of Gold Glove awards - reportedly expressed his desire to move back to shortstop with free agency looming. (Duquette added Saturday that he's still listening to trade offers for Machado, but remains underwhelmed by them.)

"It is Manny’s natural position and Manny’s basically played shortstop in the shift for three or four years," Showalter added. "I think we’re moving Manny back to his natural position. And Tim’s been playing a lot of places. I know how important Manny is for our team and I think he could be the most impactful there, especially without J.J."

Since debuting with the Orioles in 2012, Machado has been one of the game's premier defensive third basemen, managing more defensive runs saved (81) over the past six seasons than anyone at his position other than Nolan Arenado (104). And, according to Ultimate Zone Rating, Machado has outclassed even Arenado with his defensive work at the hot corner, managing an MLB-best 14.3 UZR/150 over that span. As a big-leaguer, though, Machado has logged just 52 games at shortstop, and the 25-year-old didn't play the position at all in 2017.

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