One of the most puzzling players on this year’s Orioles was reliever Mychal Givens. Manager Brandon Hyde and pitching coach Doug Brocail inherited a bullpen full of pitchers they knew little or nothing about, and they hoped they could lean on Givens.
It turns out they couldn’t, and Givens’ future with the Orioles is in question. Entering the season, Givens was assumed to be the closer.
Of course, there weren’t all that many games to close, but Givens saved only 11 in 19 opportunities. In 2018, when Givens inherited the closer’s role after the July departures of Zack Britton, Brad Brach and Darren O’Day, he recorded eight saves in 10 chances. Overall, Givens was 9-for-13.
In Givens’ first three seasons with the Orioles, he also seemed to be in the right place at the right time. He went an amazing 18-3, but in the last two seasons, Givens was just 2-13.
What was the difference? The easy answer is that Givens fares better earlier in games than later, and performed far better when he set up Britton, Brach and O’Day from 2015-17.
In 2018, Givens had a 2.96 ERA in the ninth inning and a 5.55 ERA in the eighth.
This past season, Givens had a 1.93 ERA in the eighth and a 6.69 ERA in the ninth. Givens allowed nine home runs in 35 ninth innings.
It became obvious that Givens was better in the eighth than the ninth, and none of Givens’ final five outings were in the ninth.
However, Hyde had few options. Miguel Castro had an ERA almost identical to Givens’ in the ninth inning, 6.61. Richard Bleier’s ninth-inning ERA was 7.82.
Shawn Armstrong had the best numbers in the eighth (1.38) and the ninth (1.74), but he had his struggles, too, compiling an 8.74 ERA in the sixth and an 11.34 ERA in the seventh.
If Givens stays with the Orioles in 2020, he’ll likely be used earlier in games.
Hyde’s hope is that Hunter Harvey, who sparkled in nine late-season games, can pitch in those higher-leverage situations, and that perhaps Dillon Tate could be in the mix. Branden Kline, Evan Phillips and Tanner Scott also could get chances to compete for later-inning spots.
And there might be another Givens’ number that could concern general manager Mike Elias.
MLBTradeRumors.com published their estimate of salaries for players who are arbitration-eligible on Wednesday. They think that Givens, who earned $2.15 million this year, could earn $3.2 million next season.
That could give Elias pause, and he might try to trade Givens. While the Orioles might not get a haul for him, there would be a number of interested teams.
Givens doesn’t profile as a closer. However, if he’s moved to a good team with a few good relievers, he could again stand out in lower-leverage spots.
Arbitration-eligible estimates: Besides Givens, the Orioles have six other arbitration-eligible players: Bleier ($1.1 million), Castro ($1.2 million), Hanser Alberto ($1.9 million), Dylan Bundy and Trey Mancini ($5.7 million each), and Jonathan Villar ($10.4 million).
Villar earned $4.83 million, and even though he played in all 162 games and had the 40th highest WAR (wins over replacement) among position players at 4.0, it would seem unlikely that he’ll more than double his salary in his final year of arbitration.