When the Chicago White Sox traded Gordon Beckham before the end of last season, the move was described by General Manager Rick Hahn as an “opportunity for some of our young guys to come up and get some playing time.”
That move by itself made me excited for the 2015 season, because I was finally going to get the chance to see the team improve a position that has had minimal production for the last five seasons.
Fast forward to six weeks ago, when a friend told me Hahn and the White Sox had resigned Beckham. I figured it was a minor league deal with an invite to spring training.
No real commitment.
Instead I was highly disappointed to hear it was a one year, $2 million major league deal … a full commitment to a player who has done nothing but disappoint.
What happen to the young guys getting an opportunity?
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His ideal role was explained as a right-handed bench bat who can play second base, shortstop and third base. He would also be a candidate to platoon at third with Conor Gillaspie who struggles against left-handed pitching.
According to ESPN’s Doug Padilla, Beckham saw it more as an opportunity to return to his role as the team’s starting second baseman.
"“Listen, I plan to compete for a starting job, and if that’s not where I’m meant to be then I’ll do whatever I need to do.”"
It doesn’t appear that any of us have to worry about Beckham getting his old job back any time soon. Rookie second baseman Micah Johnson has been arguably the best player this spring on the White Sox. He leads the team with a .455 average while Beckham is hitting .048 in the same amount of plate appearance (24).
In 2014, Beckham had a slash line of .226/.271/.348 between the White Sox and the Los Angeles Angels. What Hahn may be banking on is the fact that versus lefties he slashed .293/.349/.431 in 130 plate appearances. However, Beckham’s track record says don’t bet on it happening again.
In 2013, Beckham hit just .195 in 87 plate appearances against left-handed pitching. For his career, his slash line versus lefties is 244/.314/.373, which is almost identical to his .245/.370/.375 line against righties.
And then there is the fact that the White Sox have quite a few infielders already on the roster.
When the White Sox signed Emilio Bonifacio, people rejoiced at the idea that in him they have a guy who could backup Adam Eaton in centerfield. Not only back him up, but have a guy at the top of the order and could also play everywhere in the infield just in case Johnson or Carlos Sanchez struggled as the starting second baseman.
In addition to that, he is a switch hitter with a career .291 average versus left-handers so he could take some of Gillaspie’s at bats at third.
But now because of the addition of Beckham, he is likely to be underutilized as the team’s fourth outfielder.
Aug 24, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; Chicago White Sox shortstop Carlos Sanchez (77) singles to left center during the third inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Speaking of Sanchez, he will be 23 in June. The young switch hitter has spent six pretty successful seasons in the White Sox minor league system, and has a career slash line of .284/.353/.362. He also has the ability to play every infield position that is not first base. The plan for him this offseason was to compete with Johnson at second base and the fall back option was to have him as a utility infielder.
Now because of Beckham, he is likely to return back to the minors, where he has nothing left to prove.
No player in White Sox minor league system increased their stock more than Tyler Saladino last season.
After struggling with promotions in 2012 and 2013, Saladino put it all together in 2014 hitting .310 with nine home runs and 43 RBIs in 82 games while playing all of the infield and a few games in left field. If not for an arm injury ending his season early, he might be another starting option at second base this spring for the team.
When you ask everyone in the White Sox organization about Saladino, they all feel he is a guy that will find his way to the big leagues sooner than later. He has power, speed and the versatility to end up at any position the team may have a need at. He will be 26 in July so it is nearing the point where it is going to be now or never for him getting to the majors.
With Beckham guaranteed a spot on the roster, it becomes much harder for the team to an opening for Saladino.
I understand the positives that many people speak of in Beckham’s return. He is a good guy to have in the clubhouse. His defensive abilities around the diamond give manager Robin Ventura some roster flexibility. But are those things worth blocking three players who have the potential to make bigger impacts than Beckham has in the six seasons with the White Sox?
I say no.
My only hope moving forward is that if Beckham continues at his usual rate, the team isn’t afraid to eat $2 million and designate him for assignment. With bigger goals in mind this season, the team need its best players on the field, not their favorites.