Tim Beckham is one of the reasons the Tampa Bay Rays are in the playoff race. With Matt Duffy unable to play yet this year to due to a heel injury, Beckham took over as the starting shortstop this season. He filled in admirably, and for his efforts, the Rays thanked him by first moving him off shortstop and then ultimately getting rid of him. It was a strange move at the time, and it’s already looking terrible.
Tim Beckham is making the Rays Look Bad
Beckham played roughly average defense at shortstop for the Rays, with nine errors, one defensive run saved, and a -6.2 UZR/150 in 607 innings. He was having a nice offensive season, though, hitting .277/.326/.431 with 10 home runs, 31 RBI and a 105 WRC+ through June.
Tampa Bay, however, decided to upgrade on Beckham’s defense, acquiring Adeiny Hechavarria from the Miami Marlins on June 26. With Brad Miller on the disabled list at the time, Beckham shifted over to second base. Beckham also played roughly average defense at second base, with two errors, one DRS and a -3.5 UZR/150 in 141 innings. He did struggle offensively after the move, hitting .160/.250/.280 with just two homers and five RBI in July. That knocked his line on the year down to .259/.314/.407 (95 WRC+).
When Miller returned, he started getting some DH at-bats. However, when the Rays acquired Lucas Duda from the New York Mets, he took those DH at-bats. Suddenly there wasn’t enough room for Beckham, Miller, and Hechavarria to play every day. Rather than divide up the playing time between the three of them in the middle infield, the Rays traded Beckham to the Baltimore Orioles at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Despite the crowded middle infield and Beckham’s rough July, the trade was still surprising. Beckham had been an every day player all season for a team in a playoff race. The Rays acted as buyer’s leading up to the deadline, bringing in Duda as well as relievers Sergio Romo, Dan Jennings, and Steve Cishek. Their only move on deadline day, trading away someone who’d provided 1.3 fWAR for a low-level pitching prospect in Tobias Myers, seemed weird.
What was also weird was where the Rays sent him. The Orioles are still a factor in the playoff race (just 1.5 games back of the Rays and the Kansas City Royals for the American League’s second Wild Card), not to mention a division rival of Tampa Bay’s. Beckham has three more seasons of team control after this one and fills a need for Baltimore. Their incumbent at shortstop, J.J. Hardy, is on the 60-day disabled list and is a pending free agent the O’s seem likely to move on from after the season. Even if the Rays had decided Beckham was expendable, helping out a rival was a curious decision, to say the least.
And, well, Beckham most certainly has been helping out the Orioles.
A Good First Impression
In seven games for Baltimore, Beckham is hitting .536/.552/.1.036. He has three home runs and seven of his 15 hits have gone for extra bases. Incredibly, he has already been worth 0.9 fWAR in just 29 plate appearances as an Oriole. His overall line on the season is up to .281/.332/.458 (113 WRC+).
Meanwhile, as Beckham was tearing it up with one of their rivals, the Rays completed a three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers this past weekend where they scored two total runs and got shut out twice. The struggles of Hechavarria and Miller, the guys the Rays essentially chose over Beckham, are also glaring.
Did the Rays Choose the Wrong Players?
As much as the Rays value Hechavarria’s defense, is it really enough to make up for his anemic bat? In 116 plate appearances over 32 games for the Rays, Hechavarria is slashing .234/.252/.261 (37 WRC+). He has no power (three extra base hits, all doubles), doesn’t walk (doing so at a 2.9% clip), and doesn’t hit for average. Despite his strong defense, he’s still been worth -0.2 fWAR as a Ray.
As for Miller, the Rays continue to wait for him to show signs of his 30 home run form from last year returning. In 266 plate appearances over 68 games this year, Miller’s slashing .199/.342/.315 with just four homers (85 WRC+). Combine that with his rough defense – 10 errors, -5 DRS, -25.3 UZR/150 in 477.2 innings at second base – and his performance this year grades out to -0.3 fWAR. Hechavarria is what he is, but the Rays need Miller to start hitting. If not, and if Beckham continues to excel for a division rival that is competing with them for a playoff spot, this trade could turn out to be disastrous.
For years, the decision to take Beckham instead of Buster Posey with the first-overall pick of the 2008 draft has haunted the Rays. Now, the question is how much the decision to trade him will haunt them.