Selling low on Gordon Beckham

Selling low on Gordon Beckham
He's much more sure-handed in the field // Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune

By now you’ve probably heard Gordon Beckham’s name bandied about in trade rumors pertaining to the White Sox rebuilding effort.

It’s notable because it’s not everyday you hear “Trade the 25 year-old cost-controlled 2nd basemen!” during a rebuilding effort, and because it wasn’t that long ago that Beckham was capable of acting as the centerpiece of a blockbuster.  Not only that, but people would complain about it. 

“Not Gordo!” they would cry in this hypothetical scenario occurring in the past.

Now, there’s a hint of relief at the thought of Beckham being shipped away.  Not because I’m even analyzing the cost-benefit aspect of the trade, more  just because–ooh!–he was not fun to watch.  He barely got on base more than Adam Dunn, and was equally bad against fastballs!  And Adam Dunn was horrifically terrible against fastballs.

Terrible players lose their jobs all the time, and Beckham’s career hitting statistics definitely lean heavily toward uninspiring.  However, with his prior prospect status, still-in-bloom fielding work at 2nd base, and that one actual year where he, yes, hit quite well in the major leagues, a trade of Beckham would fall into the dreaded “selling low” category.

Selling low is the awful neighborhood where the Dan Hudson and 2nd Swisher trades reside, and their legacies would be bad enough given the way each player predictably rebounded, but each brought back fairly unsatisfactory hauls, be it the lower-ceiling veteran type (Edwin Jackson-who was tweaked into the best stretch of his career, Wilson Betemit), or the grab-bag of non-remarkable prospects (Jhonny Nunez, Jeff Marquez).

Comparing Beckham to those two trades isn’t particularly fair in terms motivation, as his downward spiral is a much larger sample than either case, and he isn’t being pushed out of town for being annoying.  But it’s comparable for the packages involved.

A trade for Beckham is made by a bargain-hunting team, and certainly not one looking to part ways on a player viewed strongly as a future starter, or willing to trade a veteran with slightly better present value for possible improved play from Beckham.

It’d help if that return came in the form of another middle infielder, because with their minor league depth, the White Sox would be punting the position.  Both Eduardo Escobar and Ozzie Martinez are solid fielders who can only hope to equal Beckham’s 2011 offense in full-time play, or someone from the following pile of stopgap veterans could suffice:

Carlos Guillen
Jose Lopez
Mark DeRosa
Willie Harris
Jack Wilson
Orlando Cabrera
Alex Cora
Aaron Miles
Craig Counsell
Omar Vizquel
Nick Punto
Ryan Theriot
Jeff Keppinger

Eeeeeeeeeeeeewwwww–Hey, Willie Harris!–wwwwwwwwww

Punting a position doesn’t matter so much during a rebuilding year, and the free agent crop for next season could be interesting enough that having nothing starting-quality for the middle infield coming down the pipe isn’t a disaster.

It’s still a jarring thought to considering abandoning one of the most ballyhooed prospects in recent franchise history, especially in the wake of a turnover in the coaching staff that offers as clear of a chance as any to overhaul Beckham’s approach as there’s going to be.  Depending on a hitting coach to transform a player is pretty far from prudent, but it’s not completely unprecedented.  It just might not be worth holding out for at all costs anymore, or even moderate costs. 

As in almost all cases, Beckham’s tradeability depends on the offer, and if the White Sox can wring out a worthwhile return from what exists from his name value still, it behooves them to continue to be aggressive in rebuilding the roster.  The number of players who have earned near-untradeable status on this roster can be counted on one hand, and Beckham sure as hell isn’t one of them.

Trading under-performing prospects away isn’t a situation that’s likely to offer any kind of clear win for the White Sox, but the genuine regression of the past two is simply that severe, that it’d really take a severe hatchet job by Kenny Williams to be worth condemning.


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  • I don't like the idea of moving Beckham for anything other than a top-tier organizational prospect kind of return. He is under team control, and his defense has earned him enough value to allow him another 600 PA in a rebuilding year. Beckham's "2012 Bill James" line on fangraphs is not awful, and with his defense would probably earn him a league average WAR entering his prime production years.

    Plus, there is something askew about trading Santos and Beckham to launch your rebuilding plan. I get it, but it's goofy.

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    I don't think I used "askew" correctly there, let's say "cock-eyed." (I was told there would be no grammar.)

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    It's alternative definitions get more attention for obvious cultural reasons, but this would be a perfect situation to use the word "queer".

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    If my waffling wasn't already an indication, I can kinda go either way on this. If they dealt him on the basis of cutting their losses I could understand it. They're not getting a top-tier prospect for him at the moment, but a safer low-ceiling type like a catcher who won't whiff his way out of the league of a back-rotation starter would seem fine. The problem with his Bill James productions or counting on a prime from him is that he's trending negatively in literally every measure of offense. Power, plate discipline, contact, plate coverage, pitch recognition, etc.

    That said, if they came out and said, "this is our guy, we know he can rake and just need to make adjustments that we're confident he's close to completing", well then, giddy up, Gordo.

    And oh yeah, if all they're able to do is ship out the young guys, that'd be infuriationg.

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