I’ve been ready for the White Sox to trade Gordon Beckham for a few years now. I wanted it to happen. I’ve waited for it to happen. That’s why it was so strange that when I learned the news after getting into my car and turning on the radio, I found the news that Beckham had been traded to the Angels to be bittersweet.
Initially there was the “finally!” reaction, but then it was just depressing. A former first round pick, taken with the 8th pick in the 2008 draft, had been shipped to Los Angeles in a waiver deal with the Sox getting either a player to be named later, or cash.
My mind immediately went back to the summer of 2009 when Beckham made his debut in Chicago. Over the final four months of the season he was a revelation. Here was this 22-year old kid putting up a slash line of .270/.347/.460 in 103 games, with 28 doubles and 14 home runs. This kid was going to be a star. Chicago’s very own version of Chase Utley.
Then the last five seasons happened.
While Beckham would prove to be an excellent defensive second baseman, in his five seasons since he’d never hit 28 doubles in one season again (he had 25 in 2010) and only hit more than 14 homers once (16 in 2012….while hitting .234). From the beginning of the 2010 season to his very last at bat with the White Sox earlier this week Beckham put up a line of .240/.299/.359, and was only worth 3.8 WAR over that time span. The future superstar had become a constant disappointment. Each season we’d hear about what he’d done differently that would lead to better results, and each year those results never came.
This season felt like a slow march to his being traded, but a stretch that saw him hit .189/.233/.291 since June 1 killed any trade value he might have had. Instead of a trade the former first round pick seemed destined for a non-tender this winter, and considering the return the White Sox got for him from the Angels, it’s safe to assume that’s exactly what would have happened had he not been traded.
But he was, and I hope things work out for Beckham in Los Angeles. For all his faults as a hitter, and despite the fact he never lived up to expectations, I’ve always liked Gordon. It was hard not to. His failures were never for lack of effort, and he was always harder on himself about them than any fan could have been.
He couldn’t figure out why things had gone so wrong, either, and you could see it weighing on him with each passing game.
And to his credit, those problems never carried out to the field. No matter how poorly he was hitting his defense was always stellar. They always talk about how a player just needs a change of scenery to figure things out, and I hope it’s actually true this time. Maybe playing on a team in which he isn’t a first round draft pick will relieve some of the pressure on his shoulders. Maybe he’ll stop being so damn hard on himself and relax.
Maybe that will lead to better results for him. It would suck to see it happen for him in a different uniform, but I’ll still be happy for him if it does.
As for the White Sox, it’s nice to have his $4 million salary off the books, but it’s not quite as simple as just getting rid of him and moving on. The Sox shouldn’t have much trouble finding a second baseman that can replace his offensive production, but to think somebody will just step in and provide the same kind of defense Beckham did is a foolish presumption. Carlos Sanchez, who is most likely to replace Beckham on the roster, is said to be a good defensive player, but we’re yet to see him do it on a daily basis in the Majors. Particularly at Beckham’s level.
But as Rick Hahn said tonight when talking about the trade, this move was more to open it up for the Sox prospects. The Sox have a lot of middle infielders in the farm system, and now Sanchez, Marcus Semien and Micah Johnson (though not until 2015) will all have the playing time available to them to see if they can earn a starting job in the bigs.
They won’t have the biggest shoes to fill, but they’ll be harder to fill than you might think.
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