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Tigers’ Dixon Machado is proving he’s undervalued

With solid defense and a surprisingly good bat, Machado could be a key piece of the Tigers’ infield in the next few years

San Francisco Giants v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Dixon Machado’s performance in the field and at the plate has given the Tigers a solid option at shortstop or second base moving forward beyond this season. This gives the Tigers the flexibility to explore trading either Ian Kinsler or Jose Iglesias: They have already explored several trade options for Kinsler prior to the trade deadline, and Iglesias gathered a good amount of interest as well.

Kinsler is the most expensive of the three as his $12 million team option sticks the Tigers with a $5 million buyout if they wish to shed the contract prior to the start of next season. It would also be a hard contract to trade given his recent performance and the dollar amount. At best the Tigers would need to eat a portion to get any value on their return.

Iglesias would definitely command a better return as he’s under team control until 2019 and this season is being paid a little over $4 million. Besides that, he is almost 10 years younger than Kinsler and the better of the two defensively, so Iglesias’ is someone a prospective team can build around defensively.

Ideally the Tigers would trade Kinsler to remove the most amount of salary as possible while also slotting Machado at second base. That would give the Tigers another solid double play combo in Machado and Iglesias who are both under 30. But given the probable log-jam between shortstop and third base with the five prospects the Tigers acquired at the deadline this season, Iglesias is viewed as expandable and will most likely be traded before he becomes eligible for free agency.

Machado’s best skill coming up in the minors was his glove, with a fielding percentage well above 95 percent each minor league season garnered many comparisons to teammate Jose Iglesias. Although Machado has only shown Iglesias’ prowess in spurts so far during the season, the defense will eventually solidify with more innings and shouldn’t be a concern.

Here’s some defensive highlights for your viewing pleasure:

The main concern with Machado and giving him regular playing time with the Tigers is his bat. It was below average in all areas during his time in the minors which set expectations low. However, Machado has been surprising — to say the least — with the Tigers this season.

He started out with a disappointing month of April, finishing with only two singles in 17 at-bats. However, since that rough month of April, Machado has hit the ball well. He’s totaled 26 hits in 78 at-bats which is good for a .333 average since May 1. He has three extra base hits including a home run during that time, putting his slugging percentage a bit over .400.

Yes, there’s limited power and slugging with Machado’s bat. He’s not going to tear the cover off the ball, but he will give you consistent quality at-bats much the same as Jose Iglesias has the past several seasons. Machado’s weighted OBA is sitting at .299 which is only just slightly below the league average this season of .320. Despite it being below average, Machado’s wOBA is currently higher than Iglesias’s wOBA of .280 this season and .297 over his career.

Also Machado has only struck out 14 times in 104 plate appearances this season, while walking six times. Although the sample size is small, his strikeout and walk rates are within 1 percent of Iglesias’ 2017 season numbers and career averages. So the Iglesias comparison fits Machado’s offense in addition to his defense.

Machado is under team control until 2023 at the earliest, depending on how much service time he builds from here on out, so the Tigers have lots of control remaining. Furthermore, he is pre-arbitration until 2020 at the earliest, so the Tigers have at least three full seasons of Machado with a cheap salary. This should make Machado the best option to carry the Tigers through the rebuild and into the next generation of Tigers infielders.

While it might be hard for Machado to keep his batting average around .300 through a full season or multiple seasons, he should give the Tigers above replacement level performance with the bat which something that hardly anyone saw coming. At the very least he will give the Tigers a solid glove at shortstop or second base — something Tigers fans have been accustomed to and the Tigers have relied upon for the better part of four seasons now.