Since Josh is on the DL, we weren't able to record the P.O. Sox segment for the podcast this week. That said, it'd be rude for me to ask for White Sox questions and not answer them. You know, "Neither rain, nor sleet, in sickness and in health, etc."
In other words: Remember P.O. Sox? It's back -- in blog form!
@SouthSideSox - Who is the real Gordon Beckham? The 2014 version who looks semi-capable at the plate or the lost soul from years past.— David Kaplan (@dk343434) June 22, 2014
It's plausible to consider this season a realization of Gordon Beckham's talents, because:
- He's 27, and turning 28 in September
- He's healthy.
Entering the season, he had already proven himself to be a credible MLB infielder, albeit one who shouldn't have a birth right to any starting job for years at a time. He provided above-replacement-value play even while hurt, so you could say he has a respectable floor that can support the occasional boom year.
The health history is its own animal. Beckham said injuries have held him back, and while everybody (myself included) rolled their eyes at another offseason self-affirmation, it's always a legitimate excuse if the ailments are documented. At some point, though, a player crosses a threshold and becomes "injury-prone." It's no longer bad luck, but a flaw.
Beckham had crossed into that territory, although since he avoided chronic problems, he could play that label off him. It became an urgent matter, though, as the rise of promising middle infielders and his contract situation (one arb year left) made it a put-up-or-shut-up season. He had to prove that he could stay healthy, and also that being 100 percent meant something to his performance.
So far, he's lived up to the talk. He definitely looks stronger, and although I think his swing/approach has some shortcomings that cap his ceiling (swings through his fair share of fastballs, and his flies to right don't go over outfielders' heads), the result is a sturdy combination of offense and defense for the position. The injury question is still open-ended, and will be through the end of this season at the very least, but he's doing enough at the moment to justify the offseason confidence campaign this time.
Let's roll this answer into the next question -- which I'm combining into one topic -- from striker.
If you were the GM, what would your plans be with Ramirez, De Aza, Beckham, Flowers and Viciedo?
How do our middle infield prospects compare defensively to Ramirez? Ramirez is a nice trade chip, would free up even more of that 2015 money, but defense is one of our issues so we don't want to downgrade there.
While Beckham could finally live up to his billing this season, I see very little downside in shopping him, because he's going to be a free agent at the end of 2015. And while they could theoretically offer him an extension, I don't see why they would commit to him before they have to, due to his uneven availability and the fact that he's not going to make a killing in his last arb year.
There are a number of contending teams that could use a second baseman. If he has a market, it makes a lot of sense to try to use his talent to fill one of the many needs elsewhere, and aim for a rookie's surplus value offsetting any drop-off in production. Should the Sox find themselves missing his talent or his media savvy or his hair, they can try to get him back after 2015.
Trading Alexei Ramirez is a much more daring proposition, because while the Sox could probably come up with a 135-game second baseman, they don't have a 155-game shortstop waiting in the wings. Besides the difference in offensive production, Carlos Sanchez can cover the ground, but he doesn't have Ramirez's arm, and Marcus Semien doesn't have the same playmaking ability in either regard.
There isn't a guy who can match 2014 Ramirez's value. The question is whether Ramirez's decline will be so swift that somebody like Sanchez can close a lot of the gap in 2015. That seems like a reach, but it's a valid enough question to weigh seriously if there's serious interest from the outside.
The good news -- Ramirez's contract isn't an obstacle in any sense. He's guaranteed $10 million in 2015, and there's a $10 million team option ($1 million buyout) for 2016. That's a price they can afford to keep on their payroll, and it should also hold its value into the winter shopping season. They're in a good place.
(The best full-time shortstop in the Sox system besides Ramirez still might be Beckham, but that's probably getting too cute.)
As for the others:
De Aza: He's hitting .392/.448/.588 in June. If he carries the surge deep into July, there should be some interest. He's a left-handed outfielder who can handle center and leadoff duties on occasion.
Viciedo: Count down the days until 2014 ends.
Flowers: He's a major-league catcher of some sort, so there's a job for him. I'd like to see him in a true 80-game role. Adrian Nieto is kind of a wild card for next season -- you can see why the Sox like him, and he's handled an arduous jump as well as he possibly can, but it's tough to know what his true talent level is without overexposing him. I'd gradually add to Adrian Nieto's workload -- catching every starter but Chris Sale at some point -- and reevaluate whether that's a potential time-sharing tandem for next season.
@SouthSideSox (1.) Sell at the deadline? (2.) When do we worry about Rodon not signing?— B-Mad (@brianm731) June 23, 2014
No. 1 is obvious by now.
Regarding the second one -- July 18, pretty much. In the draft podcast, I could really only differentiate the pitchers in terms of who would be the most fun to pick. I ranked Carlos Rodon behind Tyler Kolek and Brady Aiken because you had to factor in the posturing and angst and drama for a Scott Boras client. Intermittent negotiation updates are far less fun than seeing/hearing/reading about a new guy throwing a ball.
Still, it's hard to see how either side could do better, so it'd probably take a colossal misjudgment on one or both sides for Rodon to go back to N.C. State.
@SouthSideSox Is Eric Surkamp at all ready to pitch in the big leagues?— Kevin (@KevinMShannon) June 23, 2014
He can't be much readier, based on his game logs and peripherals. Also, he made seven starts for the Giants -- six before Tommy John surgery, one after -- so he knows what the deal is. It's just a matter of whether his high-80s fastball can grab enough strikes against MLB hitters without getting clobbered. That's never a good bet, but nobody will know until they try it.
That said, the White Sox are trying at least one other option first. Robin Ventura flipped roles between the two fringe starters already on the roster. Andre Rienzo heads to the bullpen, while Scott Carroll will take Thursday's start in Toronto and see whether the cutter makes any difference in an extended appearance. That's not a great bet, either, so I imagine Surkamp will get his turn at some point.