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Alejandro De Aza showing value as trade deadline nears

Resurgence might be too late for exciting offers, but it's better than what Gordon Beckham's been doing

David Banks

In his Monday roundup column, Ken Rosenthal said the White Sox could be in the unenviable position of sellers without anything worth buying. An excerpt:

What exactly do the Sox have to offer?

Consider how some of their trade candidates measure up in Fangraphs’ version of Wins Above Replacement (fWAR).

Left-hander John Danks: 0.8
Designated hitter Adam Dunn: 0.3
Left fielder Alejandro De Aza: 0.2
Right fielder Dayan Viciedo: -0.1
Second baseman Gordon Beckham: -0.2

One rival executive said that De Aza ($4.25 million) and Beckham ($4.175 million) both would be non-tender candidates entering their final year of arbitration, making their trade value minimal.

Looking at the season as a whole with no additional context, lumping De Aza and Beckham into the same group -- potential non-tender candidates -- makes sense. But those of us who have been watching them day in and day out know it's pretty hard to compare them right now.

An 0-for-3 night on Monday extended Beckham's July slump to a 6-for-58 rut, but it really goes beyond that. His production crested with a strong showing against the Tigers from June 9-12, coming out of that series with a line of .295/.337/.426.

In the 32 games since, he's hitting .133/.201/.275. Or, 16-for-120 is another way to put it, and stalwart Beckham-backer Hawk Harrelson has just about reached the "It's just a little slimy" stage of denial.

Now all of his triple-slash numbers have dropped below their counterparts from the previous season, which is problematic considering 1) Beckham said injuries dragged down his production in 2013, and 2) Beckham is healthy this year, as far as we know.

He's exhausted the benefit of the doubt a few times over by now, and with multiple legitimate options waiting for a shot at his position, the opportunity cost of moving Beckham is overwhelming. If the "minimal" Rosenthal says qualifies as "moveable," I don't think the Sox can be too picky. I don't know if Rick Hahn could bring himself to non-tender Beckham if he had to, but there's a reason it's a real possibility.

Maybe that's why Paul Konerko is trying to stoke Beckham's stock:

"But a lot of teams look at him and see he's a winning player, what he does defensively, all these things that aren't the glamorous stats that he put up right away and people figured that will happen without question.

"Even though that hasn't happened as much as he wanted, that doesn't mean he couldn't be on a playoff team or World Series team doing what he's doing."


De Aza's a strange guy to group with Beckham, because they're not really comparable in any respect. De Aza's an outfielder, he's left-handed, he's not a go-to media guy, and most observers seem content to judge him on a highly visceral level.

Here's another one to add to the list: De Aza is giving the White Sox front office a puncher's chance of generating actual trade interest. His season line still registers as a disappointment (.237/.310/.364), but he's close to climbing out of the two-month hole he dug for himself.

  • April-May: .173/.246/.279 over 200 PA
  • June-July: .339/.409/.500 over 128 PA

De Aza seemed to have problems determining the strike zone from his vantage point at the plate over the first two months, but he's picking better pitches over his hot streak. Related to that somewhat, he's also benefiting from some regression that had to happen.

BABIP is the big one. At the end of May, he had a .209 batting average on balls in play, which is impossibly low. It stands at .295 now, which is human. If his full-season BABIPs (.333 and .319) are any indication, he still has 20 points of improvement in him. You can't bank on that the way you could bank on a .209 BABIP skyrocketing, but he still has that bizarrely weak performance against lefties (4-for-53) to correct, which could aid further improvement.

As it stands, this resurgence separates him from Dayan Viciedo, his buddy in the other corner, because De Aza has speed on his side.

De Aza's wheels are often overlooked, and he can blame his dysfunctional GPS on the basepaths last year for the ugly reputation. But he's pretty much cleaned up his act this season. He's stealing bases at roughly the break-even rate, and he's only been thrown out on the basepaths three times this year, an unremarkable total in a good way.

He even contributed a heads-up baserunning play during the series in Houston, sparing Beckham from what should've been a GIDP during the fourth inning on Sunday.


Slower baserunners don't have a chance there, and it's not even an easy decision for faster guys. Here's Adam Eaton running into a tag on a nearly identical play the day before, which took a run off the board.


His speed also shows up in the field. The metrics disagree on whether he's below-average or above-average, so I'll split the difference and call him "good enough." Plays like this one he made on Saturday should separate him from the Viciedos of the world at the very least:

He's made similar catches laterally over the last month -- one to his left in Cleveland on July 11, and one to his right in Baltimore on June 24. You can't extrapolate a guy's defensive value from his highlights alone, but those plays do illustrate how his speed shows up on the field, even though it's reflexive to remember times he didn't use it well.

De Aza's an easy target because his game isn't easy on the eyes, and so his shortcomings get underlined and highlighted in a way others' don't (Harrelson has criticized De Aza for not working on his swing-checking technique enough, which is a first). Build up a resistance to the ocular trauma, and you'll see that his marketable tools -- hitting righties and being faster than average -- are fully operational, which makes him a credible major leaguer whether you like it or not.