Baltimore Orioles: Will Tim Beckham be on the 2019 roster?

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 10: Tim Beckham
OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 10: Tim Beckham /

The Baltimore Orioles have just six arbitration-raise eligible players this off-season. Of the six, the most difficult choice could be shortstop Tim Beckham

When the Baltimore Orioles traded for Tim Beckham in 2017, they didn’t pay for the first overall pick in the 2008 draft; they paid for a much lesser player. The Orioles sent just 2017 sixth-round draft pick Tobias Myers, a RHP with moderate upside to Tampa.

Beckham has never lived up to the hype of being the number one overall pick in the 2008 draft, but he’s produced like an average MLB shortstop in his time in the majors, which is valuable in and of itself.

Since the trade, Beckham has hit .258/.309/.429 with a 101 OPS+ and 54 extra-base hits. In 2018, he reduced his strikeout rate by over four percentage points, from 29% to 24.9%.

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Beckham had always been an above-average defender at short, but he fell off a bit in 2018, especially around the core injury that required surgery earlier this year. He ultimately posted a -6.0 Def, per Fangraphs.

The decline in defensive skills may not be accurate, as defensive metrics aren’t effective in small samples, but there is certainly cause for worry in his batted ball profile.

We know that Beckham dealt with a core injury in 2018, which would limit his ability to swing hard and hit for power. But the drop in hard contact rate is noticeable and we can’t ignore it.

He posted a hard hit rate of just 30.5% this year, well below a career 34.3% mark that was already on the low side, and his 86.6 mph average exit velocity fell below the MLB average for the first time in his career.

Beckham has always been heralded as a plus-power infielder; if there’s one thing he can’t afford to lose, it’s the ability to hit the ball hard as his plate discipline has never been a strength.

So what will the Orioles do with Beckham?

There really aren’t any good internal options to replace Beckham. It seems likely that Jonathan Villar mans the keystone in 2019, and Renato Nunez feels like a good a candidate as the Orioles have to play third.

Steve Wilkerson isn’t an every day player and although Breyvic Valera hit well for a week, he doesn’t feel like a long-term solution in the infield.

Cadyn Grenier, Jean Carmona and Adam Hall are all still a few years away and even if Ryan Mountcastle comes to Baltimore next year, the Orioles won’t have a viable replacement for Beckham at short, outside of Villar. But if Villar moves over, they’ll have the same issue at second.

Beckham will be relatively cheap in 2019. MLB Trade Rumors projects that he’ll make $4.3 million in 2019. The Orioles will already have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball next year; there’s no reason they can’t take another chance on Beckham at that price.

If the Orioles had middle infield prospects closer to the majors than they do right now, it wouldn’t make sense to bring back Beckham next year. But that isn’t the case.

Beckham is still the best option at short for the Orioles, and he still has 30-homer upside, even after the injury.

We don’t know how the new front office will feel about him but the way it looks right now, Beckham is the best shortstop the Orioles have. If they want talent on the field, Beckham will stay.

But if their main objective is to save as much money as possible, Beckham will be non-tendered; remember, the new front office won’t have any connection with him.

Next. When will ownership hire the new front office?. dark

Beckham’s future in Baltimore rests on whether the new front office is willing, or able, to spend a relatively small amount of money. He’ll never live up to the hype of being the number one overall pick, but Beckham can still provide value to an Orioles team which will likely project as one of the worst in baseball next year.