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Rays make the right move in dealing Tim Beckham

Tim Beckham may not have lived up to his status as a No. 1 overall pick, but he wound up playing 238 games for the Rays, slugging .421 and playing solid defense.
Tim Beckham may not have lived up to his status as a No. 1 overall pick, but he wound up playing 238 games for the Rays, slugging .421 and playing solid defense.
Published Aug. 1, 2017

HOUSTON

After adding four veterans over the past 10 days to make a run at the playoffs and talking big about doing more at Monday's trade deadline, the Rays' decision to deal Tim Beckham to Baltimore seemed like a step back.

It certainly wasn't about the return, 18-year-old low-level pitching prospect Tobias Myers. It wasn't to dump money, with Beckham making $885,000. It wasn't because Beckham hadn't contributed, his .259 average and 12 home runs an obvious base for manager Kevin Cash to acknowledge Monday "we wouldn't be in this position right now if it wasn't for him."

The point of the deal was addition by subtraction.

Basically, the Rays decided that Brad Miller was going to help them more playing second base than Beckham would, which Cash pretty much came out and said:

"We've got to get Brad Miller going and wanted to give him a little bit of a clearer path to get going. He's going to be out there, and we all saw what he's capable of, saw what he did last year (30 homers) and we're banking on that for these next two months."

Left unsaid was that the Rays must not have thought it would be a good idea to have an unhappy Beckham on the bench.

And that had merit.

He can have an attitude when things aren't going the way he thinks they should, finding perceived slights everywhere, even in being taken out of a game, a negative flip side of the competitiveness and chip-on-his-shoulder attitude that teammates admire. That's why there was justified concern when he was bumped to second after the late June acquisition of Adeiny Hechavarria. And it's nothing new, rooted in Beckham being the top overall pick of the 2008 draft — yes, over Buster Posey — and being set back by injury, a drug suspension and inconsistent play on a path to the majors he still felt was unfairly too slow.

Charming when he wanted to be, there was chatter Beckham wasn't respectful of support staff and didn't take criticism well. He seemed to be available a lot more for interviews when he starred than when he failed.

And there was his play on the field, which was probably best described as erratic. Or heart-breaking. He would do several good things to help the team then a really bad one that hurt.

Just this weekend in New York, he was involved — to different degrees — in three different head-scratching bad plays, the result of bad communication and/or decision-making.

And as much as Beckham was an offensive force early, taking advantage of Matt Duffy's injury issues for his first real opportunity to play every day in the majors, he hadn't done much lately, hitting just .173 since mid June with three extra-base hits.

All that said, the move did not go over well in the clubhouse, a number of big-name Rays — on and off the record — questioning how trading him with no tangible return helped their cause.

"I know at times he made it hard on himself, but he really cares about the game, he cares about his teammates and he wants to win, and I love having teammates who possess those qualities," starter Chris Archer said. "I'm happy for him personally, but I think it strips a little bit away from our team that's helped us vibe and click up to this point in the season."

Third baseman Evan Longoria said though pleased with the totality of the Rays moves in adding Lucas Duda as the primary DH and relievers Steve Cishek, Dan Jennings and Sergio Romo, dealing Beckham feels "like it's a little bit of a blow to this team."

First baseman Logan Morrison said he loved Beckham's attitude — "He's a guy I really want on my team" — and he is definitely "going to be missed."

Obviously the move is a gamble, in several ways.

Primarily in that Miller, after a slow start and a couple of DL stints, hasn't showed anything near that 30-homer and .243 average form, hitting .199 with four home runs in 61 games.

And another as they have to hope Miller's bat not only comes alive but helps more than his occasionally leaden glove hurts.

With Duda as the DH, the only place for the Rays to play Miller is at second, and that's what they're going with. "He's going to play good defense and get some big hits for us," Cash said.

In dealing Beckham, the Rays were working hard to get a replacement who can give them more reliable defense as a backup middle infielder. Though Taylor Featherston was summoned, Daniel Robertson may be ready to come off the DL next week and uber-prospect Willy Adames is at least worth talking about, expect them to keep looking and fill that void from the outside soon.

The Rays are confident the net result of their deals is a good one.

"There's no doubt and I don't think anybody could argue that otherwise," Cash said. "If you look at where we were 10 days ago and you look at where we are now we have a better team."

Marc Topkin can be reached at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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