Gordon Beckham: Should the Angels Try a Little Tender-ness?

By Brian Helberg
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The Angels acquired, Gordon Beckham, from the Chicago White Sox back on August 21st of this year in exchange for a player to be named later or cash. Beckham was originally selected by the White Sox in the first round of the 2008 amateur draft. The former Georgia Bulldog made his big league debut during the 2009 season for the Pale Hos. Beckham excelled in his first campaign in Chicago, batting .270, with 14 home runs and 63 RBI’s. Becks finished fifth in the ’09 Rookie of the Year voting.

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Unfortunately, the fiery middle infielder has not produced anything close to the numbers he put up as a rookie. Beckham has averaged 10 home runs, 44 RBI’s, and a batting average of .242 per season over the five years since his breakout ’09 campaign. Prior to being dealt to Anaheim last August, Becks was hitting just .221 across 101 games with the Sox. The Angels had to be pleased with the returns they got from Beckham. Although it was just a small sample size (26 games), Beckham looked much better as a member of the Halos. Beckham hit .268, with 2 home runs and 8 runs batted in. His .328 OBP and .429 slugging percentage were both well above his career averages.

Beckham has never been an overly impressive infielder defensively, but his versatility does provide value. Beckham has played 632 career games at second base, and sports a respectable .984 fielding percentage. Working against Beckham are the advanced metrics, which suggest he has allowed 28 more runs than an average fielder over the course of his career. The Angels opted to use Beckham as a utility infielder in 2014, having him split time between second base, shortstop, and third base. The results were mixed for Beckham and the Angels, as he registered a .933 fielding percentage, and looked uncomfortable playing short.

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Gordon Beckham is up for arbitration this offseason, and the question looms, should the Angels extend the veteran infielder a contract offer or just let him walk? The Angels must decide whether to tender Beckham by 11:59 p.m. ET on December 2nd. Reports indicate that 28-year-old can expect to earn roughly $5 million dollars in 2015 if the Angels opt to offer arbitration.

The Angels employed Beckham as infield depth last season, and his role figures to be about the same in 2015. With a career slash line of .245/.307/.345 Becks is not an ideal bat to call on late in ball games as a pinch hitter. Beckham has stolen 29 bases over his six-year career, so manager, Mike Scioscia, will likely be looking past Becks on the bench when the club needs a pinch runner. $5 million dollars is a steep price to pay for a utility infielder, who really is limited to second or third base, and does not possess much in the way of speed.

Ken Rosenthal reported nearly a month ago that the Halos were eager to move, Howie Kendrick, or, David Freese. If general manager, Jerry Dipoto, is able to find a dance partner this offseason then Beckham’s role in 2015 could expand exponentially. Beckham is capable of playing both second and third, and represents the Angels most veteran replacement for either player. However, reports surfaced last week that after the Angels acquisitions of, Nick Tropeano, and, Cesar Ramos, Dipoto prefers to hold onto Kendrick and Freese. This revelation effectively guarantees that Beckham will only see significant time for the Angels next season is if one of the regulars misses time due to injury.

May 29, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Los Angeles Angels left fielder Grant Green (10) runs towards first base after hitting a RBI single against the Seattle Mariners during the fourth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Beckham may not even be the first string utility infielder next season after the emergence of, Grant Green, in 2014. Green did a lot of positive things for the Halos last season, and ended up starting games at four different positions. Green hit .273, with 1 home run and 11 runs batted in across 40 games in 2014. Green’s home run numbers are not impressive, but he did provide a solid .354 slugging percentage. Green is a defensive upgrade on Beckham as well, as he sported a .1000 fielding percentage in 2014. Green is not eligible to receive arbitration until 2017, so he will make approximately $500,000 next season for Los Angeles. Moving forward, Green is capable of putting up similar numbers to Beckham, but his price tag is much more economical and he is even more versatile defensively.

The final reason for the Halos to pass on Beckham is their close proximity to the luxury tax threshold. It is believed that the Angels have less than $10 million dollars to spend this offseason on free agents. This puts them in the precarious situation of attempting to improve their roster and push for a World Series in 2015 by signing discounted or overlooked players. The Angels have a need for starting pitching, particularly at the front end of their rotation, but due to their cash constraints, they are not likely to sign one of the big name arms available. By non-tendering Beckham, the Angels would save roughly $5 million, giving them a bit more wiggle room under the luxury tax.

If the Angels do not offer arbitration to Gordon Beckham next week, he would become a free agent. In short, the Angels absolutely should NOT offer Beckham salary arbitration this winter. However, I would not be opposed to re-signing Beckham once he becomes a free agent, as the Halos infield depth is pretty thin. There is no way any team offers Beckham a deal worth $5 million dollars annually, and I think the Angels could retain him for a deal worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 million dollars over two-years.

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