Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado are already two of this era's best third basemen, and it increasingly looks like the pair could find themselves locked in a battle for the National League MVP as we get deeper into the 2022 campaign.
Arenado is already one of the greatest players in Colorado Rockies history, and narrowly missed out on our countdown of the nine greatest third baseman in MLB history this past offseason.
Now in his second season with the St. Louis Cardinals, Arenado is slashing .330/.400/.621 with seven home runs, 24 RBIs and a 1.021 OPS. Even in his age-31 season, Arenado remains one of the best defensive players that the sport has ever seen, as he's posted a four defensive runs saved and three outs above so far in 2022.
For Arenado, winning the NL MVP would be the cherry on top of a trophy case that's already overflowing. Arenado is a six-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger Award winner, five-time Platinum Glove Award winner and nine-time Gold Glove Award winner. The highest that he's ever finished in NL MVP voting came in 2018, when he finished third after leading the senior circuit with 38 home runs.
At this point, whether he ever wins an MVP Award or not probably won't change a ton for Arenado -- he's almost certainly going to be a Hall of Famer when his excellent career concludes.
Machado is also on a Hall of Fame trajectory, although there might be some who believe he isn't as sure of a thing as Arenado. From that perspective, winning an MVP Award might mea more to Machado's legacy.
And make no mistake, Machado is currently the front-runner. In his fourth season with the San Diego Padres, Machado is the National League leader in fWAR (2.8), batting average (.385), on-base percentage (.460), OPS (1.103), OPS+ (231), hits (42), runs (26) and total bases (70). He may not be the same all-time defender that he was early in his career with the Baltimore Orioles, but Machado is still a very good third baseman, as evidenced by his two defensive runs saved and three outs above average so far in 2022.
As much as it should be viewed as a blip on the radar, some who cover the sport have struggled to move past Machado's strange stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018. Adding an MVP to a list of career accomplishments that already includes five All-Star Game appearances, two Gold Glove Awards, and one Silver Slugger and Platinum Glove Award apiece would go a long way in terms of doing that.
More importantly for Machado -- who will turn 30 in July -- he can opt out after the 2023 season. While it would be a gamble to opt out of five years and $150 million ahead of your age-31 season, if Machado keeps performing at an All-Star level, he'll have a decision to make. Thus far, the 10-year/$300 million deal that he signed with the Padres before the 2019 campaign has proven to be pretty team friendly.
Before everything is all said and done, Bryce Harper, Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor and Tommy Edman could all factor into the NL MVP race. But a summer of watching Arenado and Machado -- who may both go down as top 15 third basemen in MLB history -- go blow-for-blow doesn't sound half bad.
More MLB Nuggets
- Before the regular season began, we picked Cleveland Guardians third baseman José Ramírez to win the American League MVP. So far, that pick looks entirely possible, as the three-time All-Star is slashing .311/.410/.631. He currently leads the junior circuit in triples (two), RBIs (30), total bases (65) and fWAR (1.9).
- We took some slack for (among other things) projecting that Kevin Gausman would win the AL Cy Young Award after leaving the San Francisco Giants to sign a five-year/$110 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays this offseason. The 31-year-old is currently 3-1 with a 2.13 ERA, 0.73 FIP and MLB-leading 2.2 fWAR.
- It's a shame that Jackie Bradley Jr.'s bat has fallen off a cliff, because he's still an excellent defender. In his second go-round with the Boston Red Sox, Bradley is among the league leaders in defensive runs saved (six) and outs above average (three).
- Whether it's a 19-3 loss at Camden Yards in June of 2015 or a ninth-inning meltdown at Chavez Ravine in April of 2017, the Philadelphia Phillies have had their fair share of ugly losses over the last decade plus. However, last Thursday's disastrous loss to the New York Mets -- which saw them blow a six-run lead in the ninth inning -- is the worst loss that the franchise has had since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS.
LISTEN NOW on the Audacy App
Sign Up and Follow Audacy Sports
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram