After seeing Erick Aybar sign a minor-league deal with the San Diego Padres earlier this week, it reminded me that Alexei Ramirez is still looking for a next team. Which, in turn, reminded me that Gordon Beckham was still looking for his next team.
The latter found a job the very next day, signing a minor-league deal with the San Francisco Giants.
Beckham’s fate still intrigues me more than it should, although the reason evolves over time. When he left the White Sox and headed to the Braves for the 2016 season, I wanted to see whether a different team enabled him to be a different player. It turned out his performance with Atlanta -- a team with no pressure, a wide-open depth chart and close to his home base — would have fit in perfectly with his White Sox career.
- White Sox, 2013-15: .236/.288/.349
- Braves, 2016: .217/.300/.354
So that answered that question, and as Beckham turned 30, I wondered whether he would join the ranks of Triple-A placeholder lifestyle, intermingling with your Steve Lombardozzis and Andy Parrinos and occasionally surfacing as a non-roster invitee. Despite his replacement-level performance, he hasn’t returned to the minors for anything more than a rehab stint since the White Sox called him up to stay in 2009. His increasingly delusional self-assessments made me genuinely curious if his bubble would shatter.
But then Beckham was granted a reprieve by a rare late-September trade that sent him to San Francisco. Beckham wasn’t eligible for a postseason roster, but he got to act as a sort of stowaway with a postseason team for a week longer than most seasons last, and you’ll never guess what happened.
In a brief glimpse, it was clear that Gordon Beckham is a guy you'd want to have around. Upbeat person. Longtime buddies with Posey, too.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) February 8, 2017
This is how it starts, San Francisco.
Beckham still might end up in Triple-A, as he’ll have to climb over at least one other White Sox cast-off to get on the 25-man roster. Grant Brisbee gave his list of suitable backup infielders, and it doesn’t look favorable for Beckham.
1. Jae-gyun Hwang
2. Kelby Tomlinson
3. Conor Gillaspie
4. Orlando Calixte (because he can play center)
5. Jimmy Rollins
6. Gordon Beckham
7. Juniel Querecuto
Brisbee’s list probably isn’t indicative of the Giants’ plans, at least for half of those two open spots. Gillaspie could be a lock based on his postseason heroics — and also the circumstances that put him in those spots — so it becomes even tougher.
But based on how long he’s been able to stave off a return to the minors, I wouldn’t bet against him. There’s something to be said for being confident, positive and approachable, even if the cumulative disappointment over years should have had a humbling effect long ago. It’s up to other people to see the disconnects, and don’t count on them to do so.
We’re kinda seeing the same thing with Todd Frazier, although 40 homers with reliable defense at third base guarantees his major-league employment even if his personality weren’t so strongly defined. On MLB Trade Rumors (h/t House on Twitter), Ryan Dennick shared stories from the start of his career in Cincinnati, and Frazier made an immediate impression.
Once I completed my warm-up tosses, I took a lap around to the back of the pitcher’s mound where I routinely receive the ball back from the third baseman after it’s thrown around the horn.
Right as the ball was getting thrown back to me, it was intercepted by Todd Frazier, who was playing first base for us that night. He turned into Roger Dorn straight out of the movie Major League. He looked me right in the eyes and said “I only have one thing to say to you: strike this [expletive] out!” It made me laugh. Any nerves I had before pitching were suddenly calmed. I was as ready as I would ever be.
Like Beckham, Frazier seems universally liked and accepted by those who cover him and his teams. Unlike Beckham, there’s at least one story involving friction with a teammate, as Bruce Levine said Frazier didn’t get along with Adam Eaton. (He probably wasn’t a fan of Adam LaRoche, either, if his Twitter clicking is any indication.)
Frazier’s the one still standing on the South Side. Granted, he’d probably be elsewhere if the market weren’t so inhospitable toward corner infielders, but he now has the strongest personality on the roster, and he says he wants to apply it to the rebuilding effort.
"I think we got really good guys back from the trades, really mature guys," Frazier said. "I talked to a bunch of them already and told them, you might have to fill in a role right away. You gotta take the good with the bad, don't get down because you're going to get hit around, you're going to strike out, but you're going to be here for a long time. That's what spring training's for. I know (Don) Cooper's got the pitchers and (Todd Steverson's) got the hitters. We'll have a lot of meetings and show them the right way to play Chicago White Sox baseball."
It’s weird that a player who has only been around one disappointing year — and might only be around for a few more months — is suddenly the standard-bearer for Chicago White Sox baseball, but the Sox continually find themselves fumbling for fixtures, and Frazier’s probably a better bet than others to pay off in the interim. He reminds me of Jake Peavy, whose assertiveness wasn’t necessarily regarded as an asset until he was healthy enough to throw 219 innings. The Good Guy Who Isn’t Afraid To Get Dirty is a pretty compelling protagonist, even if he’ll be hard-pressed to recreate the level of drama from last year’s spring.