05 September 2017

Looking Ahead: What Should the Orioles Do With Tim Beckham?

The O’s kicked off the week with an ugly loss, but the Slam it Like Beckham 2017 tour continues to chug along at a steady pace. 

The infielder again tapped into his power stroke, connecting in the bottom of the first for a home run measured at 376 feet.  The opposite-field blast extended his career high to 19, and marked his 7th in 33 games with Baltimore.

It seems all Beckham has done is rake since he’s arrived.  He’s won over teammates and fans with his stellar play.  Likewise, Baltimore’s promo department wasted no time cashing in the hype (hence Monday’s t-shirt giveaway). 

So, has the first pick of the 2008 draft tapped into some fountain of potential?  Or is he riding an unsustainable wave of good fortune whose apex is bound to crash at any moment? 

The answer, as usual, probably lies somewhere in between.  The real question is, how does Mr. Beckham fit into the club’s long-term plans?

To me, there are two avenues that make sense: double down or cash out.  AKA, discuss the viability of a long term contract or explore the off-season trade market.

Option A: Double Down

Baseball contracts are like grains in a sieve, constantly shifting.  One thing’s for sure: if you’re sold on something, you should try your best to lock it down.  After all, yesterday’s overpay may turn out to be tomorrow’s bargain, when adjusted for salary inflation.

With that in mind, if the Orioles believe Tim Beckham is their guy, they should look to buy him out of his arbitration years.  It could be a three-year year deal with a club option totaling $25-30 million.

Beckham’s play, thus far, has been other-worldly.  His return ticket to planet Earth will be scheduled any day now.  Even in the event he completely regresses, however, the modest commitment wouldn’t be back-breaking to the organization.

What you’re buying into is the upside: that offensively he’s a poor man’s Jonathan Schoop with slightly better wheels.  That defensively he can hold down the fort at short, with the versatility to slide over to second or third in a pinch.  If he can do all that, he’ll be a bargain in that price range. 

So, what’s the incentive for the Beckham camp to willingly sign off on a deal that could leave millions on the table?  Well, they have access to the same regression models as everyone else.  They have to figure Beckham’s not going to hit .394 all season, as he did for the month of August.  Why not cash in and lock in multi-generational security for his family?  

Besides, the Orioles are paying J.J. Hardy’s cadaver $12.5 million.  I think they could scrape together some change from under the proverbial couch cushion to pay for Beckham.   

Option B: Cash Out

On the other hand, there may not be a better time for the Orioles to flip their new acquisition than this coming off-season.

With their most-recent impressions of Beckham being his second-half surge, opposing general managers will have to listen with at least feigned-interest should Baltimore come calling.  

And, if the interest is expressed the other way around, the Orioles can’t afford not to listen.  Their farm system lacks blue chippers at virtually every position.  Simply put, it needs massive work.  

In the meanwhile, they could sign a serviceable veteran to keep the fires warm until minor-leaguer Ryan Mountcastle proves he’s ready for the show.   

It’s highly doubtful this scenario would happen, mainly because the Orioles are philosophically-opposed to trading established players.  Also, Beckham seems to fit their idea of coveted player perfectly (low walk rate, average power, high K-percentage).  Still, it’s an avenue worth at least exploring.  


Jon Shepherd said...

Arbitration is an interesting thing. Matt Perez wrote on it awhile back (http://camdendepot.blogspot.com/2016/02/say-goodbye-to-40-60-80-rule.html), which suggests a 24/34/41 breakout for a position player. I think we could use that to give a couple estimates on what Beckham would see in arbitration. I think this year could be about a 3.5 WAR season for him. A 3.5 WAR season is worth about 25 million. So,
2018 - 6 MM
I think moving beyond that any extension would expect very good performance, so more 3 WAR seasons.
2019 - 8.5 MM
2020 - 10.3 MM

That gives you a 3/24.8 MM. So, 3/25 if he continues to be very good. For me, I would have to be sold on his value outlasting his .450 BABIP. If I think he is truly a 3.5 to 4 WAR player, then I would be willing to go in on simply buying out his arbitration years. Still, that would not be all that useful to me without also getting a free agent year or two in it.

For me I would be more willing to look at something around 4/35-40 or 5/55-60 if I truly believed in him.

Unknown said...

Timely article. A few points:

1)Why would the Orioles 'buy' Beckham out of his arbitration? He's under team control until 2020. Wouldn't the Orioles be losing money if they did that? Please explain this thinking.

2)The problem with trading Beckham is that the O's would be out of a short-stop. There are no viable options for next season out of the minor leagues and the this year's free agency class is very lame. I don't see Beckham being traded for a player so valuable the O's would pass up on having a dud at SS for an entire season.

Pip said...

Matthew, a very cleverly written article. Enjoyed it.
Couple things: you didn't address the possibility or Manny moving to short and getting another 3B, which means that trading Beckham wouldn't create a serious hole.
You didn't mention Beckham's frustrating defense. He's below average at short and only Chris Davis' skills at 1B have saved several additional throwing errors.
Finally, a knock on Beckham was his attitude when things were going badly. I don't remember details but it was serious enough to have been a factor in the Rays getting Hechavarria and dumping Beckham.
Personally I'm all for selling to highest bidder, but the Orioles have been happily sacrificing D for O these last 2-3 years, so they'll likely keep Beckham.

Unknown said...

So what if here..... Beckham's arm isn't great, Schoop's range isn't great, and Manny wants to play SS. I say Schoop to third maximizing that big arm, Manny SS to make him happy plus his range could help cover Schoop's lack of and last put Beckham at 2nd where the longest throw to first is from 2nd base and not shallow LF? I know it's crazy but you know, think about it?