Exit Interviews/Trade Rumors: Gordon Beckham

Aug 31, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Chicago White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham (15) misplays a ground ball during the seventh inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

These “exit interviews” will be going over the entire 40-man roster and looking to see how each player does or does not fit into the White Sox future.

The term “exit interview” is usually used when an employee is leaving the company. I took that into consideration…and kept it.

Gordon Beckham is embroiled in trade rumors, and I’m starting to wonder if we’ll get to the hot topics in time if I keep plowing through relievers, so we’re skipping ahead.

Gordon Beckham - Light-hitting, good fielding second basemen/embodiment of franchise disappointment

Age by 2014 Opening Day: 27

Contract: Entering his second of year of arbitration, with $3.5 million being his projected figure.

Relevant stats: .267/.322/.372, 88 wRC+, 6.9 BB%, 13.7 K%, .105 ISO. 12 errors, defensive metrics think he’s below-average

Interpretation: This was better, and passable for a second basemen, but still not an especially valuable player.

Emblematic split: .216/.297/.319 with a .238 BABIP after the All-Star break, but with a minuscule 12.6 K%.

Pre-season expectations: Optimism springs eternal for the great white hope, but we’ve been hurt too many times. There may have been an entire post mocking Beckham’s optimism for 2013.

“Sequels are often no more than bland rehashes of well-worn formulas, but perhaps not since Evil Dead II has a new chapter of a running series as blatantly acknowledged and winked at its own repetitiveness as the latest comments from Gordon Beckham expressing optimismthat a new season will bring the end of his offensive struggles.”

Quote of the year:

“My heart was in the right spot, but my mind obviously wasn’t. It was loud. I screwed up.”

Gordon’s story: Armed with a new, intense crouch at the plate (if one can be armed with such a thing), Beckham came into the new year looking decent-ish with the bat early o n, before keeling over in pain in his seventh game of the season, felled by a broken hamate bone in his left hand.

48 White Sox games later, Beckham returned to the team mid-tailspin and quickly took over the dilapidated throne of ‘best hitter on the roster.” Whether he wants to give credit to his new stance, learning over time or just the pressure of would-be prospects on his heels, Beckham finally stopped killing himself on high fastballs, reduce his swing zone and became a contact maven. He hit .338/.361/.460 from recovery until the All-Star break, seemingly struggling to drive balls to the warning track, let alone beyond them, but spraying flares everywhere.

Doinking singles everywhere was a big improvement for Beckham, simply because it meant that he drastically improved his contact rate, but the downside came on with full force in the second half, as seen with the brutal split above. By the end of the year he was sub-.700 OPS again, even if lingering discomfort in his hand and issues with his quadriceps that limited him on defense (weak base for throws to first, spike in errors, a starring role in the worst play ever) gave legitimate excuses for his loss of power. Excuses have been being made for Beckham for years, so even with foundational improvements, it’s hard to view the new slate of reasons for why the breakout didn’t happen for the fourth-straight season as temporary trifles.

Assessment: Now a good time to discuss what Beckham’s long-term value and role is, since MLB.com is reporting that the Blue Jays are sniffing around him in their desperate attempt to avoid the trauma of Maicer Itzuris. The Beckham has package shifted a bit in nature, but remained the same underwhelming sum in 2013.

His deal-breaker contact issues left, but his lack of power to scare pitchers out of the zone forces him to hit his way on, and he’s not good enough at that to be even a useful slap-hitter who gets on base at the top of the order. His defense took a hit in 2013, but it was always simply good, not entirely redeeming him as a player on its own. As a light-hitting, good glove second basemen, Beckham is not a glaring hole as a starter, but he’s completely non-essential as well.

As much as the Sox struggle to score, they need to find places to improve and inject above-average players. Beckham’s place at second represents such an opening, and once anyone starts feeling that Marcus Semien, Carlos Sanchez or Micah Johnson could do better, their opportunities become a lot more vital than Beckham. With Semien having seen major league action already, the White Sox should not be torn about moving Gordon if intriguing assets are offered.

 

 

Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan

Topics: Chicago White Sox, Gordon Beckham, Marcus Semien

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