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Why the Rays traded Tim Beckham

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The trade was surprising, but not uncalled for.

Tampa Bay Rays v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Tim Beckham was a sunk cost for the Tampa Bay Rays.

While it’s easy to get riled up about Beckham never reaching his full potential as the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, he still held some value as the Rays’ surprisingly successful starter at shortstop this season.

On offense, in his first of four years of salary arbitration, Beckham flashed some serious power potential, but in the end graded as a platoon player at best, as hitting while a slender, developing power hitter in Tropicana Field is a tall order.

At his best, Beckham had a career 149 wRC+ vs LHP on the road, but a meager 58 wRC+ vs LHP at home, cancelling out his platoon hitting value.

At the end of the day, his batting profile was about average: 103 wRC+ vs LHP and 90 wRC+ vs RHP on his career. Those are fine numbers for a prospect adjusting to the big leagues, but Beckham — at age 27 — has seen 239 games at the major league level.

The time for adjusting was done.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay was pleasantly surprised that Beckham held his own at shortstop to start the 2017 season, at least while the team awaited Matt Duffy to return from offseason surgery, but when Duffy was sent back for another procedure the Rays traded for slick fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and assigned Tim Beckham to second base.

Second base was available, however, because thumping infielder Brad Miller (making $3.5 million in his first year of arbitration) was on the disabled list. Since then, Miller has returned to the Rays lineup and the Rays have added Lucas Duda as their primary designated hitter.

One of Miller (111 wRC+ in 2016) or Beckham (95 wRC+ in 2017 and out of options) had to go to the bench.

Meanwhile, on the depth chart behind Beckham, Hechavarria and Miller are the recovering SS Matt Duffy (114 wRC+ in 2015), INF Daniel Robertson (former Top-10 prospect), INF Taylor Featherston (acquired from the Angels), INF Trevor Plouffe (acquired from the A’s), and SS Willy Adames (the Rays current No. 1 prospect).

The Rays would have liked Beckham to play a utility role for the club while Miller settled back into second base — as Featherston and Robertson are sure to do in Beckham’s absence — but the media narrative had been that Beckham strongly preferred to remain a shortstop in his career. In his trade to the Orioles, he’ll get an opportunity to do just that.

Without offering much flexibility to an already crowded roster, and with three more years of arbitration on the horizon, it’s no surprise Tim Beckham was not considered a part of the Rays future.