I have to say, I'm not completely enamored with the Orioles calling up Manny Machado today. He's a great prospect – hitting well in Double-A (the .266/.352/.438 line doesn't look earth-shattering, but it's well above average in context as noted by his 122 wRC+) and having only just turned 20 – but, well, he only has a partial season at Double-A and he only just turned 20. I have a hard time imaging Machado is going to provide any sort of significant improvement for the O's down the stretch, especially given his lack of experience at third-base. And his arbitration clock is starting a fair bit earlier than I would have expected.
On the other hand, if the Orioles like Machado enough to think he's got a good chance of being the team's starter at third-base next year, then getting him a little seasoning down the stretch this year makes some sense (assuming he'll be playing more often than not, rather than sitting on the bench). Also, even if Machado doesn't outplay a Robert Andino or a Wilson Betemit, it's possible that having someone who is capable on both sides of the ball (not a stretch to think Manny while be less of a horror at third than Betemit; and there's a non-zero chance he can out-hit Andino, even if I think fans are greatly overstating the probability of it) allows Buck to utilize the roster more effectively overall. To wit:
vs. Left-handed Pitchers:
Wilson Betemit – .145/.226/193 (yikes!)
Mark Reynolds – .280.413/.453
vs. Right-handed Pitchers:
Wilson Betemit – .304/.357/.508
Mark Reynolds – .188/.296/.356
Freeing Betemit from third-base and allowing him and Reynolds to platoon at first (or DH, with Chris Davis at first) can turn the position into one of relative strength for the team. Add a potential Nate McLouth/Lew Ford platoon in left (neither guy is good anymore, but each has been a slightly above average hitter in his career against opposite-handed pitchers), and the line-up on any given night could be decent one. If Betemit spells Machado at third against tougher righties and Andino is around for defense if learning a (somewhat) new position at the Major League level is as hard as it sounds, it could be a small plus.
Given where the Orioles are right now – in the thick of a pennant race based largely on "fluky" success in one-run and extra-inning games, but with less than two months to go (during which their "luck" could certainly hold) – a small plus could be enough. And promoting Machado too early is definitely far less troublesome for the future of the franchise than trading him (or another young player) for a rent-a-vet would be. So while it might have been better to have to be patient about it, I'm excited to see Machado play tonight and hope he can show at least a little something this year.