Zach Wilt: Where does Tim Beckham fit in Orioles’ future plans?

Tim Beckham took the Orioles by storm last season. The shortstop was acquired at the 2017 trade deadline from the Tampa Bay Rays for 18-year-old right hander Tobias Myers, who was pitching in Aberdeen at that time. In his first 20 games in Baltimore, Beckham slashed a ridiculous .424/.443/.741 with eight doubles, five home runs and 12 RBIs. A change of scenery seemed to be exactly what Beckham needed.

Quite possibly the best part about acquiring Beckham was that he wasn’t just a rental for Dan Duquette and the Birds. Beckham came to Birdland with several years of controllability. The former No. 1 overall pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft appeared to be another valuable cornerstone for the Orioles when he was added to the roster a year ago. Now that the plan in Baltimore has changed and a rebuild is underway, Beckham’s future is much more uncertain than it appeared last August.

Last night in Tampa, Beckham went 1-for-4 with a strikeout. He entered the contest hitting .234/.298/.359 in just 60 games played this season. At the end of April, the 28-year-old shortstop, who was playing third base at the time due to Manny Machado changing positions, re-aggravated a groin injury that he suffered during spring training with the Birds and landed on the 10-day and eventually 60-day disabled lists. After surgery and a long road to recovery, Beckham was finally activated from the DL on June 25.

After looking so promising in 2017, this season has been a challenge for Beckham. The effects of that change in scenery may have worn off. Perhaps it’s unfair to judge Beckham based on his performance this season. After all, he was adjusting to a position change, recovering from an injury during the spring and ultimately missing two months of the season due to that injury. On the flip side, Beckham will be 29 next year in his second season of arbitration eligibility. As the Orioles get younger, it’s hard to imagine that Beckham will be a part of the franchise’s next competitive team.

There’s still value in controllability though and I think Beckham’s 2018 season shouldn’t cause the Orioles to sell low on him. At 0.3 WAR, Beckham has hardly been above replacement level this season. A year ago, he was valued at 2 WAR in 50 games with the Orioles and 1.3 WAR in 87 games with the Rays. Even in just 64 games in 2016, he totaled 1.2 WAR, making me believe he’ll bounce back next season.

I also wouldn’t overlook the flexibility that Beckham provides as a player who he can play all around the infield. He’s played 187 games at shortstop, the most of any position over his career, but has also fielded 73 games at second base, 48 at third, six at first base and 16 as a designated hitter. That’s helpful for a team that might want to get a good look at prospects at different positions over the next couple seasons.

To continue their rebuild, the Orioles should look to sign free agents with high upsides to one-year contracts and flip them at the trade deadline. We have seen rebuilding teams have success with this method over the last couple years and the Birds should follow suit. Along the same lines, if Beckham gets hot at some point next season and the market heats up, they shouldn’t resist trading him. His contract, ability to play anywhere in the infield and whatever numbers he’s posting at the time should provide a good return to further the rebuild.

Even though the numbers have declined for Beckham this season, I still have hope that the acquisition will be fruitful for the Orioles. Beckham helped take over for J.J. Hardy, fill in for Manny Machado and could eventually bring in some more pieces to help the Birds get back on top in the AL East down the road.

Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. Follow him on Twitter: @zach_wilt. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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