If the Toronto Blue Jays were looking for a high-upside former top prospect who might be one change of scenery away from having a legitimate breakout year at a position of dire need, you know, longtime Chicago White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham might just be their man.
If they want a player who can perform at a level to help them contend, however … that might be a different story.
Yes, it’s the old upside vs. actual performance conundrum again, and while it might make sense for the team to go towards the former even as they’re trying to contend as early as the 2014 season, their rumored pursuit of the 27-year old is a pretty good example of when the quest for upside can get a little questionable.
As White Sox fans well know and have had the displeasure of experiencing over the last few years, Beckham is not what you’d call an impact player at the MLB level. Does he have the talent to get there? Of course — after his .270/.347/.460, 2.5 fWAR display as a rookie in 2009 where he flashed a tantalizing power/speed combination, it looked like he was well on his way to being one of the league’s best.
However, that fast track has taken a wrong turn over the last four seasons, with the goodwill built up from his pedigree and his first year in the bigs having been continually chipped away with one poor season at the plate after another.
Here are the facts: rushed to the bigs or not, Beckham has been a well below average offensive player for the past four seasons, never posting a wRC+ over 88 or an OPS over .700. His 3.0 fWAR accumulated from 2010-2013 ranks him 33rd among qualified second baseman in the league, which is to say that he probably shouldn’t be starting for any team at all.
Yes, he’s been hurt in 2013, but there were also two seasons prior where he didn’t have any significant health problems, and it’s not like he managed a OBP of over .300 in either of them.
Besides, since when are wrist injuries a good omen for future performance? The nicest thing you might be able to say about Beckham at this point is that he’s a tease, showing flashes of his natural gifts only in short bursts like the final month of 2012, when he posted a strong .792 OPS in the final month of the season. Or, you could look to the summer months in 2013 prior to the All-Star break, when he came back from the April wrist issue and ultimate put together a strong .335/.357/.443 first-half line despite a slow start to the season.
But how did he follow that up post-break? Oh, he just fell off the earth with a .216/.297/.319 line over 239 PA, that’s all — nearly a 200-point OPS differential.
Sure, the Blue Jays are going with an “anything is better” approach at that point, but second base is one spot where they really don’t need to play the upside game being that they don’t have a lot of depth. In case the Beckham they end up getting is the one that’s been around for most of the last four years, Alex Anthopoulos and co. are essentially back at square one.
Oh, and this is not even to mention that on top of another disappointing year, the Pale Hose second baseman also started a rather unsavory trend in 2013 of developing a significant lefty-righty split, hitting a decent .287/.347/.398 vs. RHP and .195/.230/.280 vs. LHP. In 2012? He was largely pretty bad against both with a bit of a reverse split (.695 vs. LHP, .659 vs. RHP)
So … on top of everything else, just what would be the Blue Jays hoping for here — another platoon player at best, and just another sub-par one in general? And they’re going to trade an asset for him?
It’s probably the case that Beckham might have been a good fit for the team if they were in a different stage of their MLB lives. However, given that he is under just two more seasons of team control without any hint that those years are going to be at all promising … let’s just say that they’re just not the right dance partners right now — not when the team already has another tease in Brett Lawrie in the infield already, and is focused on making good with a significant upgrade.