Baseball's annual nontender deadline, when teams must offer players who are eligible for salary arbitration contracts for the coming season or ultimately release them, used to be a time for the Orioles to try and find bargains from other clubs who might be cutting loose a useful player.
This year, the Orioles have some decisions of their own to make on a handful of their five eligible players — Jonathan Villar, Tim Beckham, Mychal Givens, Dylan Bundy, and Caleb Joseph — ahead of that 8 p.m. Friday deadline. Taken together, they could go a long way toward informing the team and the public as to how the new regime under new executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias is going to approach building his team.
The club's July trades under former executive vice president Dan Duquette were as much about unloading salary as they were about getting young talent back, and it's possible that could still drive things with the major league roster already so bleak. They could also take the opportunity to simply pay the modest costs for players who might benefit from a new manager in lieu of searching for major league replacements at thin positions and devote their resources elsewhere.
Here's a rundown of each player's case, along with their projected salary, courtesy of MLBTradeRumors.com.
Jonathan Villar ($4.4 million)
Villar, acquired on July 31 in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers as Jonathan Schoop's replacement, proved himself to be a useful piece in his two months in an Orioles uniform. He hit .258/.336/.392 with a 103 OPS+ and 21 steals in 54 games, providing an overall level of flair and speed that the lineup has lacked for years. Even if it's at second base instead of shortstop, Villar will be a piece of the 2019 Orioles.
Tim Beckham ($4.3 million)
The Orioles' shortstop has spent over a year now trying to re-create the spectacular heights of his first month in their colors, and between injury and inconsistency, simply hasn't done it. He hit .230/.287/.374 with a dozen home runs and an 83 OPS+ in 96 games, and struggled to hold down either shortstop or third base, serving as the designated hitter often down the stretch. The idea that Beckham could be nontendered was mostly propagated by figures who aren't in Baltimore anymore. It's still a real possibility, but the Orioles could bring inexpensive competition and make Beckham earn a job in spring training without being on the hook for his whole salary, too. At a terribly thin position in the organization, lopping the top of the depth chart may not help much.
Dylan Bundy ($3 million)
The Orioles' best starter in terms of youth and upside, Bundy was name-dropped in a letter to season ticket members from Elias as a member of the major league core that he hoped the Orioles would eventually win with. Even coming off a mercurial year with a 5.45 ERA that somehow still featured two seven-run starts that were dominant, Bundy will be back at any price in hopes of turning it around.
Mychal Givens ($2 million)
Like Bundy, Elias made note of the Orioles' most experienced reliever in Givens as part of their future core. He joined many of his teammates in posting an inconsistent 2018 season, made to soak up innings as the Orioles protected trade chips Brad Brach and Zach Britton earlier in the season and without many save opportunities in the second half en route to a 3.99 ERA. But he's still one of the most valuable players on the team, at a quite reasonable price for a closer.
Caleb Joseph ($1.7 million)
Along with Beckham, Joseph has been made to sweat Friday's deadline more than most. The veteran catcher had another uneven season, batting .219 with a .575 OPS in 82 games, but the team is lacking proven alternatives with Chance Sisco, Austin Wynns, and Andrew Susac also on the roster. Joseph is projected to make all three combined. Joseph is one of the last remaining pieces of the Orioles' recent playoff teams, but such sentimentality might not have a place in a team going in a different direction.