O's making tough calls on arb-eligible players

Bundy, Givens, Villar likely to stick around, but Beckham's status uncertain

November 28th, 2018

Less than two weeks after officially taking over as the Orioles' general manager on Nov. 16, Mike Elias faces a second wave of roster decisions. More are sure to come, with Elias expected to lead Baltimore through a full rebuild.

That process starts with clearing up the club's roster picture for 2019, which should come into focus later this week. Teams face a Friday 8 p.m. ET deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players, and MLB.com is taking an in-depth look at the financial decisions weighing on each club.

The Orioles aren't expected to be particularly busy at the deadline; they only have five arbitration-eligible players. Teams like the Brewers and D-backs have as many as 14. Here is a preview of the roster decisions the O's new front office will face in the coming days.

Who is arbitration-eligible?

The Orioles' five arbitration-eligible players are projected to earn a combined $15.4 million in 2019 -- in other words less than Manny Machado's '18 salary. Service time is in parenthesis.

Infielder (4.113 years)

Shortstop (4.134 years)

Right-hander (3.026 years)

Right-hander (3.069 years)

Catcher (4.127 years)

Who is the most likely non-tender candidate?

Beckham. The former No. 1 overall Draft pick regressed mightily after his trade to Baltimore in 2017, hitting just .230/.287/.374 in 402 plate appearances last season. He is set for a raise on his $3.35 million salary, so it seems likely that the Orioles will move on rather than paying him more in '19.

Two factors, though, could convince the Orioles to keep Beckham. First, the 28-year-old isn't blocking any top prospects. Second, he's still fairly inexpensive to keep, especially after the O's shaved off $28.3 million from their budget in July's fire sale. As it stands, their projected Opening Day payroll is 48 percent lower than last year's.

How about the others?

Bundy led the Orioles in starts, innings and strikeouts, and he profiles as their No. 1 starter despite his 5.45 ERA in 2018. He's one of the better bounce-back candidates in baseball and a near-lock to be tendered a contract.

Givens had the toughest season of his career in 2018, but he is still the most durable and accomplished reliever in an Orioles bullpen without Zach Britton and , who were traded ahead of the '18 non-waiver Deadline. Givens finished the season as Baltimore's closer, and he will likely find himself in that role this season. He's set for a raise on his $566,500 '18 salary.

Villar has yet to repeat the production from his dynamic 2016 season in Milwaukee, but he hit 14 home runs and stole 35 bases last year at age 27. Given the lack of veteran everyday players on their roster, the Orioles likely see value in keeping him in the fold.

Joseph, and all survived last week's Rule 5 Draft deadline, though all three backup types were potential candidates to be designated for assignment. That decision probably speaks more to concerns over whether can stick around behind the plate after the former top prospect stalled at the Major League level in 2018. Sisco likely will get another opportunity next season, which is why it's hard to see the Orioles not bringing Joseph back as defensively capable (and cheap) insurance policy. At 32, he also provides clubhouse leadership.