Andrew Stetka: What's Tim Beckham's future with the Orioles?

When the Orioles traded minor league pitcher Tobias Myers to the Rays at the non-waiver trade deadline last year to acquire former first overall draft pick Tim Beckham, it raised some eyebrows. Some questioned why a team that was three games under .500 and in fourth place in the division, was making a go-for-it type of move. The O's went on to collapse at the end of last year and finish 75-87 and in last place in the American League East.

But the Beckham move became more clear in that final two months. He was initially utilized as the replacement for J.J. Hardy, who missed all of July and August with an injury. Hardy returned to play some in September, but it was clear that Beckham was replacing Hardy, who remains out of the game entirely. Things actually started out very well for Beckham, too. He hit .306/.348/.523 with 10 home runs in 50 games for the O's in 2017 following the trade. Things looked like they'd work out just fine with him as a replacement for the aging and now seemingly retired Hardy.

Beckham was then shifted to third base this season, making way for Manny Machado to move over to shortstop. I've written extensively about how much I disagreed with that move, and it's been criticized beyond my own words. But beyond all of that, there's no real set plan for Beckham going forward. His return from core muscle surgery is imminent, but there's not even a real guarantee for playing time this season. The 28-year-old struggled mightily before going down for about two months. In just 23 games, he hit .179/.247/.262 with one home run and one stolen base. He also did not show he was up to the task at third base defensively, though to be fair, he moved to an unfamiliar position and did so to take over for Machado. Anyone moving into that spot following Machado is going to look like a massive downgrade. Now, with Machado likely to be traded, more questions will crop up on the left side of the infield for the O's moving forward.

Beckham, who should return tonight from the disabled list after missing time following core surgery, will have two remaining years of arbitration after this season, and won't be eligible for free agency until 2021. At $3.35 million this season, the Orioles will have to decide if they want to continue to pay out Beckham's arbitration seasons and use him as a placeholder going forward, or go in another direction. The issue is, there isn't a ton of talent down on the farm coming up. While the Orioles are chock full of outfield and pitching prospects, the left side of the infield remains very thin.

Ryan Mountcastle is perhaps the best shot at future hope at third base. He got a late start to his season at Double-A Bowie, but the 21-year-old is hitting the ball well for the Baysox. That said, there's still no guarantee Mountcastle can remain at third base defensively, after already moving over from shortstop. The same can be said for Single-A Frederick's Jomar Reyes, who isn't even having near the offensive success as Mountcastle at a lower level. In terms of depth on the left side of the infield beyond Beckham, that's about as far as it goes. That's what makes Machado's impending departure so much more costly. There could be a lot of Jace Peterson, Danny Valencia, Steve Wilkerson, Engelb Vielma and Ruben Tejada in the future for the O's over there along with Beckham.

The Orioles are quite obviously about to enter a crucial five weeks leading up to the trade deadline, especially when it comes to Machado. But Beckham is linked to that. It could mean that he shifts back to shortstop and the O's figure it out from there at third base. Getting younger talent infused into the left side of the infield is going to be crucial, however. Not only because Machado is on the way out, but also because Beckham is such a mystery.

Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O's appear here as part of MASNsports.com's continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. 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.

Hess struggles, Davis returns and other notes
Martinez explains keeping Rodriguez in after rain ...
 

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.masnsports.com/