Baltimore Orioles: Much ado about third

Who’s on third? I don’t know…we’re not talking about him yet. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Who’s on First, the legendary Abbot & Costello bit, is my favorite slap stick routine of all time. True story, when I was about 20 I took a “friend” to a baseball game. She had never been to a game in her life, and she asked me who the players on the team were. (She knew of Cal Ripken Jr, but nobody else.) So I figured I’d give it a try…on our team we have who’s on first, what’s on second, etc. No joke, we made it all the way to tomorrow’s pitching, today’s catching before I lost it and had to tell her she’d been had. Funny that the relationship never panned out.

That aside, Manny Machado‘s knee was surgically repaired this week in Los Angeles. Machado is expected to rehab out there for a few weeks before continuing that treatment in Miami for the remainder of the off season. Having said that, doctors estimated that his rehab would take up to six months. That in theory puts us past March 30th’s Opening Day. So what’s the best course of action for the Baltimore Orioles?

Here’s one thing I wouldn’t do if I were them: select a rule 5 draftee. One might ask why this matters; first off, the Orioles have gotten very lucky the past two seasons with Ryan Flaherty and T.J. McFarland. Part of the reason why the rule 5 draft is so difficult is due to the fact that the guy has to be on the roster for the entire season.That can be challenging at times. Since the Orioles were able to do that, both Flaherty and McFarland are now full-fledged Orioles, and can be moved around in the team’s minor league system if need be. Nevertheless, if the Orioles might need to use stop gap measures to plug holes at third base for the beginning of the season, they’re going to need all of the roster flexibility that they can find.

Flaherty himself might be a prime candidate to fill that hole at third for the time being. My personal opinion is that Machado might in theory be ready for Opening Day, but that he may end up having to see time in extended spring training just to ensure that he’s ready. The reason I say that Flaherty might be a prime candidate is because first off he’s already on the roster. The Orioles wouldn’t have to move people around to make space for him and so forth. But while he’s no Machado – nobody is – he’s not bad with the glove. He may be a streaky hitter in some senses, however…again keep in mind that we’re talking about a backup third baseman here, and one that might only be filling in for a couple of weeks. If the Orioles are worried about whomever plays there meeting Machado’s standards, they should probably just stop looking all together.

The other option (and this fits in with the idea of not drafting rule 5) would of course be picking up a veteran third baseman or infielder to fill in. That might be an expensive proposition given that Machado isn’t expected to miss too much time. However it’s worth mentioning that former Oriole Mark Reynolds is a free agent, as is Kevin Youkilis. Either one of them would be veteran presences in the clubhouse, and obviously in Reynolds’ case a guy with whom most of the players would be familiar. The reason I bring up those two names is because they can also play first base. Would a few breathers here and there not do Chris Davis some good? I suspect that Youkilis is probably looking to play everyday, which is a chance the Orioles could not consistently give him.

My personal opinion is that they’ll take the Flaherty route, but only time will tell. If they do that and Flaherty struggles at the hot corner in spring training, perhaps they will go out and get someone. The best-case scenario of course is that Machado is ready to go on Opening Day. But ultimately as of right now, the question persists…who’s on third? And the best answer to that of course is no, who’s on first; I don’t know’s on third!

Tags: Baltimore Orioles Manny Machado

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