A week of shakeup within the Orioles' evolving front office ended with more turnover, this time of the roster variety. Baltimore did not tender contracts to Timothy Beckham nor Caleb Joseph at Friday's 8 p.m. ET deadline, instead deciding to part ways with a pair of players who played big
A week of shakeup within the Orioles' evolving front office ended with more turnover, this time of the roster variety. Baltimore did not tender contracts to Timothy Beckham nor Caleb Joseph at Friday's 8 p.m. ET deadline, instead deciding to part ways with a pair of players who played big roles at key positions in 2018.
The moves marked the first consequential on-field personnel decision made by Mike Elias, who became the club's new general manager and senior vice president on Nov. 16. In choosing not to retain Beckham, the Orioles opted to embark on their rebuild without the player who finished 2018 as their starting shortstop. Non-tendering Joseph ends the catcher's decade-plus run in the organization. Both are now free agents.
In what were essentially formalities, the club did tender contracts to three arbitration eligible players in Dylan Bundy, Jonathan Villar and Mychal Givens.
Up for a salary increase despite regressing in 2018, Beckham saw his star dim significantly over his first full season in Baltimore. He hit .179 over his first 23 games, then dragged that average into late June after missing two months due to a core injury. Beckham ended up hitting .230/.287/.374 with 10 home runs in 96 games, a far cry from the .306/.348/.523 line (with 10 home runs) he put up in 50 games after being acquired from Tampa Bay in 2017. Beckham rated as a below-average defender at both third base and shortstop, the position he returned to after Manny Machado was traded in July.
The former No.1 overall pick was due a raise on the $3.5 million he made in 2018. The Orioles are no longer on the hook for that money, though they remain open to a reunion with Beckham at a lower price. For now, though, his departure leaves their roster with a significant hole. Baltimore is left with three middle infielders on its active roster: Villar, who can play second and short, and Steve Wilkerson and Breyvic Valera. Without Beckham in the fold, Villar likely slides over to short. But that opens second base, without an obvious answer. Wilkerson and Valera are Minor League journeymen with 53 combined games of big league experience between them.
Perhaps a solution would be to reunite with former second base fixture Jonathan Schoop, who was non-tendered by the Brewers on Friday. Schoop was projected to eclipse $10 million in arbitration, per MLBTradeRumors.com, but could come at a discount now given his down 2018 season and ties to Baltimore.
While their decision on Beckham was somewhat expected, club officials were still debating what to do with Joseph less than a half-hour prior to Friday's 8 p.m. ET deadline. Originally a seventh-round pick by the Orioles out of Lipscomb University in 2008, Joseph spent six seasons in the Minors before making is MLB debut in 2014 at age 28. The ostensible backup to Matt Wieters, Joseph actually made more starts (220) behind the plate than the oft-injured Wieters (194) between 2014-16. Joseph essentially split time with Welington Castillo in 2017, and led the Orioles in games caught (81) last season.
But Joseph's offensive shortcomings also caught up to him in 2018. Always a defense-first player, Joseph hit .182 over the season's first six weeks, after which the Orioles optioned him to Triple-A Norfolk. He returned a month later and finished the year with a .219/.254/.321 line, three home runs and 17 RBIs in 280 plate appearances.
Joseph hit .224/.271/.353 with 31 home runs and 122 RBIs in five seasons with the Orioles, emerging as a clubhouse leader. He was due for a slight raise on his $1.25 million salary. The Orioles catching depth chart now consists of Austin Wynns and former prospect Chance Sisco, who stalled in limited action at the big league level last season.
Bundy and Givens were both arbitration eligible for the first time, and they'll return as the club's ostensible No. 1 starter and closer, respectively. This is the second winter of arbitration eligibility for Villar, whose $2.55 million 2018 salary was the highest of the group.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.