Gordon Beckham is back, and Dayan Viciedo is gone after two roster moves that enhanced the White Sox’ flexibility and officially ended the Viciedo experiment Wednesday.
Beckham returns on a one-year, $2 million contract after his August-September haiutus with the Los Angeles Angels. A starter at second base and third during six major league seasons after the Sox drafted him eighth overall in 2008, Beckham — who played second, third and shortstop for the Angels during their postseason push late last season — returns in much the same role he enjoyed with the Angels.
“Adding Gordon improves the depth and flexibility of our roster,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “We are thrilled to have him back. Like [free agent] Emilio Bonifacio, Gordon brings the ability to play solid defense at multiple positions or play on an everyday basis should the need arise. This also gives [manager] Robin [Ventura] the ability to play matchups more effectively when setting the lineup.”
Viciedo, 25, full of power and offensive potential, was a disappointment and was designated for assignment Wednesday. The Sox tendered him a contract in December, but that was before they signed Melky Cabrera to replace him in left field and added Bonifacio. Viciedo agreed to a $4.4 million one-year contract to avoid arbitration this month, and the Sox could be on the hook for one-sixth of his salary — about $733,000 — but have 10 days to trade him.
“It got to a point where Dayan didn’t fit in in any meaningful way,” said Hahn, adding that he “will flesh out interest” in Viciedo and “find him a better home.”
“It won’t surprise us if he has a very successful career elsewhere.”
While Beckham, 28, never played up to offensive expectations (he’s a career .245 hitter) after winning Rookie of Year honors, he will be the team’s best defensive second baseman. His batted .226 with nine home runs in 127 games last season with the Sox and Angels, including an improved .268 after getting traded Aug. 17 and appearing in 13 games at third base, six at shortstop and five at second.
Beckham said Wednesday he doesn’t consider himself a utility player but he wasn’t staking a claim for his old job as the starter at second base, either.
“Obviously I would love to play every day,” Beckham said.
“My most important goal is to help them win, and ultimately, whatever that entails, whether it be at second base full time or around the infield a bunch of times, all over the infield, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
Rookies Carlos Sanchez and Micah Johnson are expected to compete for the starting job at second base. with Beckham and Bonaficio providing insurance and flexibility at second, and at third base behind Conor Gillaspie and 33-year-old shortstop Alexei Ramirez.
“If Micah or Carlos locks down second base,” Hahn said, “then we have Gordon with the ability to take pressure off of them occasionally at second as well as filling perhaps for Conor against lefties and also take some of the load off of Alexei, which has been a big load for the last few years.”Bonifacio can play second, shortstop and third and all three outfield positions, so Ventura’s options before and during games have been enhanced. Viciedo, a defensive liability, moved closer to the exit gate with every move.
“With Melky and Bonificio being switch-hitters and bringing different element of athleticism, it was more consistent with what we were looking for,” Hahn said.
Hahn was also looking for versatility. The left-handed hitting Gillaspie’s slash line of .300/.350/.444 against right-handers was very good, while his .221/.248/.317 line against lefties was another story. If Gillaspie doesn’t start against lefties, having him on the bench to pinch-hit against a tough right-hander would be a plus.
Having Beckham around is a plus, Hahn figures. When he was traded, he figured his Sox days were over. He returns in a much better frame of mind, and to a team that has bolstered its roster significantly since he left.
Wednesday’s moves appear to strengthen the roster another notch. In Beckham’s new role, both he and the Sox may be better off.
“Getting away was good for me in general,” Beckham said. “I needed some time not only to kind of reboot, but also to work on my game and that’s something I feel like I did out in Anaheim.”