Baltimore Orioles non-tender shortstop Tim Beckham, catcher Caleb Joseph
The Baltimore Orioles made two tough decisions on Friday night, non-tendering shortstop Tim Beckham and catcher Caleb Joseph
Whether or not the Baltimore Orioles would tender contracts to Tim Beckham and Caleb Joseph ahead of last night’s deadline has been a hot topic in Birdland over the past few weeks.
Many fans have expressed the opinion that Beckham overstayed his welcome in Baltimore, despite the fact that he was productive in late-2017 after his acquisition, and that he spent a good portion of 2018 both being shuffled around the diamond defensively, and on the disabled list recovering from core muscle surgery.
Part of the reason those fans wanted the Orioles to move on from Beckham was his projected salary. Beckham made $3.35 million in 2018 and MLB Trade Rumors had projected him to receive $4.3 million through arbitration in 2019. For some, that felt like too much for a former first overall pick who hasn’t lived up to expectations.
Those feelings were also due in part to Beckham’s shortcomings as a defensive shortstop. Beckham has a career -4 DRS at short, which puts him a tick below average.
One of the biggest areas for improvement in Baltimore is on the defensive side; as a team, the Orioles committed 104 errors and posted a cumulative -94 DRS last year, third worst in the majors. Beckham has upside as a hitter but he’s not a good enough defender to make the Orioles better.
The Orioles will put more than a handful of younger pitchers on the mound in 2018 and solid defense is more valuable to this team than offensive upside. We’ll find out soon enough who the Orioles will target as a replacement at shortstop. We’ve suggested a few names already, including Jose Iglesias, Freddy Galvis and Adeiny Hechavarria, all of whom are plus defenders and could help the Orioles young pitchers.
Caleb Joseph is a different story. He’s been an efficient defender throughout his career and has been touted as a leader in the locker room, and many Orioles fans have supported him being on the roster despite Joseph being one of the worst hitters in the majors.
His defense behind the plate did drop significantly last year as he posted a -4.7 FRAA (Fielding Runs Above Average) and a -1 DRS, the first time in his career he’d posted a negative number in either measure.
Almost all of Joseph’s value is derived from his defense; he posted a .575 OPS last year with a 54 wRC+ and an atrocious 3.6% walk rate. If he’s no longer an above average defensive catcher, he’s unfortunately not going to find work in the majors.
Without Joseph, the Orioles are left with Austin Wynns and Chance Sisco behind the plate. There’s a chance they could venture into the free agent market to find a replacement for Joseph, but as Joseph was projected for $1.7 million next year, the Orioles will be hard pressed to find someone cheaper.
The Orioles did tender contracts to their other three arbitration eligible players, Dylan Bundy, Mychal Givens, and Jonathan Villar. Bundy is projected to make $3 million next year, Villar $4.4 million and Givens $2 million.
Givens is expected to receive the majority of save opportunities in Baltimore next year, and could potentially be used as a trade chip at the deadline to boost the Orioles farm system. It seems unlikely that Bundy makes his way to the trade block until Elias spends some time working with the young righty. The Orioles would be selling low on Bundy, who allowed a league high 41 homers in 2018. Villar will likely man the keystone for the Orioles in 2019, as he proved to be an above average defender there last year.