The Baltimore Orioles have a few arbitration decisions to make this year but it should be an easy choice to non-tender Caleb Joseph and his contract
The November 30th non-tender deadline is still a few weeks out and the Baltimore Orioles don’t yet have their new front office in place, but regardless of who the new hires are, they should be able to conclude that Caleb Joseph no longer provides enough value to warrant rostering him.
Joseph had a decent run catching for the Orioles; a 7th round pick in 2008, he broke into the majors in May of 2014 after Matt Wieters‘ elbow gave out and required Tommy John surgery.
Joseph platooned with Nick Hundley from May on in 2014, and the Orioles would finish first in the AL East with a 96-66 record that year.
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Throughout his career, Joseph has been a serviceable defensive catcher with an above average arm; he led the majors with a 40% caught stealing percentage in his 2014 rookie season.
However, he’s never been an adept hitter; in five seasons with the Orioles, Joseph has slashed .224/.271/.353 with 31 homers and an OPS+ of 70.
Joseph has posted 300 or more plate appearances just once, in 2015, he’s never had an on-base percentage greater than .300, and just once has he posted a slugging percentage over .400.
He also isn’t squaring up the ball in his limited plate appearances. Per Statcast, Joseph recorded just 3 barrels this year and posted an average exit velocity of 84.6 mph, almost three-mph less than the league average.
Joseph has been a poor offensive player for his entire career and now that he’s getting further along the aging curve, heading toward his age-33 season, he’s declining sharply and it’s not helping the Orioles win, nor is it helping them advance the rebuild.
The upside to rostering Joseph is that he’s essentially free. He was under contract for just $1.25 million this past year, and MLB Trade Rumors has him projected to make $1.7 million in arbitration this offseason.
The Orioles have two younger catchers in Austin Wynns and Chance Sisco who, to be fair have plenty of faults of their own, however, should both be better options behind the plate for the Orioles right now.
Sisco was the second-ranked prospect in the Orioles system coming into 2018 and he spent a few months in Baltimore this year, but he was atrocious at the plate, posting a 59 wRC+ and a 35.9% strikeout rate.
Some of Sisco’s struggles may have stemmed from the concussion he sustained in early May when he collided with Pedro Alvarez; Sisco never seemed to find consistency after the injury.
Wynns doesn’t have a ton of upside but he’s just 27 with decent plate discipline and a good defensive profile; he posted a 32% caught stealing percentage this year in 41 games.
It’s likely that neither Sisco nor Wynns is the catcher of the future in Baltimore, but we know for certain that Joseph won’t be. The sooner the Orioles can move on from Joseph, the better off they’ll be.
We won’t know where the new front office stands on Joseph until they get here but if we’re basing his roster spot on his on-field performance, he won’t be playing for the Orioles in 2019.