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Orioles non-tender Joseph, Beckham at deadline

Posted on 30 November 2018 by Luke Jones

New Orioles general manager Mike Elias made his first significant major league roster decisions Friday by not offering contracts to catcher Caleb Joseph and infielder Tim Beckham.

All other players on the 40-man roster were tendered contracts for next season, a list that included the arbitration-eligible trio of starting pitcher Dylan Bundy, reliever Mychal Givens, and infielder Jonathan Villar.

Joseph and Beckham now become free agents allowed to sign with any of the 30 major league clubs.

A fan favorite and a member of the organization since being selected in the seventh round of the 2008 amateur draft, Joseph was one of the final holdovers from Baltimore’s last two playoff clubs in 2014 and 2016. The 32-year-old’s strength was his defense, routinely ranking in the top six or seven in the American League in pitch-framing metrics and accumulating 38 defensive runs saved from 2014-17. However, his defense slipped substantially last season, making him expendable as he batted only .219 with three home runs, 17 runs batted in, and a .575 on-base plus slugging percentage in 280 plate appearances.

Joseph was projected to make roughly $1.7 million in arbitration. The expected free-agent departures of Joseph and five-time All-Star center fielder Adam Jones leave first baseman Chris Davis as the only remaining member of the 2014 AL East champion Orioles.

Beckham, 28, was acquired from Tampa Bay at the 2017 non-waiver trade deadline and provided an immediate spark, batting .394 with 18 extra-base hits in his first month with the club. However, injuries and struggles at the plate and in the field plagued Beckham in 2018 as he batted only .230 with 12 homers and a .661 OPS in 402 plate appearances while making 19 errors split between third base and shortstop. He missed two months of action after undergoing core muscle surgery in late April.

The first overall pick of the 2008 amateur draft, Beckham was projected to make $4.3 million in arbitration, which made him an expensive option as a utility player on a rebuilding team.

Bundy is projected to make $3 million, Givens $2 million, and Villar $4.4 million in arbitration.

On Friday, the Orioles also parted ways with farm director Brian Graham, who had been serving as interim general manager after the departure of former executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette in early October and before Elias’ arrival. Director of scouting Gary Rajsich was also relieved of his duties earlier this week.

Those departures add to an extensive list of positions Elias needs to fill as he continues to search for Baltimore’s next manager to replace Buck Showalter, whose contract wasn’t renewed after the Orioles’ historically-poor 47-115 season.

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Can Bundy, Harvey restore some faith in Orioles’ future?

Posted on 19 February 2016 by Luke Jones

The Orioles are optimistic about their chances in 2016, especially if they complete deals with starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo and outfielder Dexter Fowler as many anticipate.

But there’s no avoiding concern when you take a peek toward the future. It’s no secret that Baltimore’s farm system ranks among the worst in baseball in the eyes of multiple publications, and they now appear on the verge of forfeiting their top two choices in the 2016 amateur draft. Instead of having up to eight picks in the first 91 slots as it appeared possible at the start of the offseason, the Orioles will have four — none in the top 50 — if both Gallardo and Fowler agree to play at Camden Yards this summer.

In looking at the farm system, we once again come back to the health of pitching prospects Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey, who both took part in the first official workout of the spring on Friday. Injuries have derailed their promising futures, but the Orioles are expressing optimism that each pitcher is finally back on track.

With Bundy, the future is now since he enters the spring out of minor-league options. After finally appearing to be past the effects of his 2013 Tommy John surgery, the 23-year-old was limited to just 22 professional innings last year before being shut down with a sore right shoulder. He was shut down again in the Arizona Fall League with right forearm tightness, but that was deemed to be minor and he’s working without any restrictions at the start of the spring.

“He’s as good right now as I’ve seen him since he’s been with the Orioles,” director of player development Brian Graham said Thursday on MLB Network. “I think health is the major factor. He’s throwing the ball well. He looks good. He’s got a smile on his face. He’s healthy. This is a different guy right now.

“Dylan Bundy’s ready to finally be healthy and be the kind of guy that we always expected.”

The only problem is that Bundy is far from a finished product with just 38 2/3 innings above the Single-A level under his belt, and he will now be relegated to bullpen duty in the majors as a pseudo-Rule 5 pick without the benefit of being able to send him to the minors at the end of the season. Even if he remains healthy — a major question until he proves otherwise — how will a bullpen role impact his development?

You can’t help but wonder if Bundy has already reached the point of no return, at least as it relates to visions of him being the future ace in Baltimore. If effective in short relief or as a long man, the 2011 first-round pick will still have a difficult time building up innings to the point where he can be relied on as a full-time starter in the near future.

Of course, the Orioles would just like to see him healthy enough to pitch in any capacity for a full season before they start worrying about what might come next.

Meanwhile, the 21-year-old Harvey says his forearm and elbow are healthy after he’s been shut down with a strained right flexor mass in each of the last two years. The 2013 first-round pick saw his stock skyrocket with a 3.18 ERA as a 19-year-old at Single-A Delmarva in 2014 before he was shut down in late July of that season.

He hasn’t pitched in a professional regular-season game since then, but Harvey told reporters in Sarasota on Friday that he has been throwing since December and is fully cleared for spring training as a non-roster invitee. He will likely begin the 2016 season at either Delmarva or Single-A Frederick.

“All the medical reviews and the MRIs and everything he’s gone through, they say he’s 100 percent healthy,” Graham said. “If Hunter has the ability to stay healthy and pitch the way he’s capable of, he has a chance to be special. I think sometimes he might be glossed over just a little bit, and people don’t quite realize how good he is.”

At this point, the Orioles and their fans are in wait-and-see mode when it comes to both young pitchers. A clean bill of health at the start of spring training isn’t the same as being healthy in late March and in early June and for an entire season, but it’s a start.

No news is good news as it relates to the health of Bundy and Harvey, and such a development would be a much-needed shot in the arm for the Orioles’ pitching future.

No pun intended.

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