In a deal little-noticed outside of Chicago, White Sox Gordon Beckham was traded to the Angels for a player to be named later or cash. A career that had started out with promise ended up being a disappointment.
Beckham was taken with the eighth pick of the 2008 draft and played a total of 59 games in the minors prior to being called up in 2009. He showed promise from the start, finishing 5th in the AL Rookie of the Year vote while batting .270 with an OPS over .800 and 14 home runs. For a Sox team four years removed from a World Series championship and one from making the playoffs, he appeared to be a piece the team could build around as they re-tooled for their next run of sustained success.
It didn't happen. The average began to decline, and while the fielding was usually dependable, even that begin to slip. Beckham's projected profile as a middle infielder with some pop never really came to pass, and by the time 2014 came around his hitting was in free fall. At the time of his trade he was batting .221 (148th out of 152 qualified hitters) with a .598 OPS (149th). This only paints part of the picture as he was batting .176 in the second half. 2015 would be his last year of arbitration eligibility prior to entering free agency -- the die was cast.
I heard the deal announced on 670 The Score in Chicago, and afternoon co-host Dan Bernstein made the comment that Beckham was the second Chicago second baseman sent to Los Angeles in the past month, following Darwin Barney going to the Dodgers. There was discussion as to whether this could be a "change of scenery" trade, with the general consensus being no since Beckham had never displayed any attitude of pettiness or a lack of willingness to work. The Angels are set at second with Howie Kendrick, and as they continue their playoff run Beckham could play an important role as a late-inning defensive replacement, even though his defense has slipped somewhat this year.
The White Sox have future players like Micah Johnson and Tim Anderson ready to join them. Johnson has been shut down for the year with a strained left hamstring, and Anderson is currently a shortstop. The Sox aren't going anywhere this year and have time to figure out a long-term solution at second. Unfortunately for Beckham, after what seemed to be a five-year "wait and see and hope and pray" approach, his time was up.
White Sox GM Rick Hahn assumed his position after the 2012 season and immediately changed the team's talent acquisition and development methods. Gone was the old "trade prospects for established veterans" thinking and in was a renewed emphasis on developing young talent and growing from within. The White Sox minor leagues were almost completely devoid of talent and have yet to be fully replenished, but Hahn appears to have made the necessary moves. As the young talent comes to fruition and older players like Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko leave the team, sometimes other players have to go as well. It was Beckham's time -- he had his chance and wasn't able to capitalize on it. He was a good guy and a fan favorite, but in the end just not good enough to start for a team that wants to win.
Scott Lindholm lives in Davenport, IA. Follow him on Twitter @ScottLindholm.