Commentary

Shuffling the deck

Teahen at third? Beckham at second? Williams' move hard to figure

Updated: November 6, 2009, 6:26 PM ET
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

Chris Getz has been exiled to baseball's Siberia.

[+] EnlargeChris Getz
Icon SMISecond baseman Chris Getz wasn't spectacular as a rookie but showed enough promise to prove he is a major-league player.

What did he do to deserve a trade to Kansas City?

Was he not scrappy enough? Not satisfactorily grindy? Getz climbed through the White Sox system without preferential treatment. He was well-liked, played hard, played hurt, hit for contact and stole bases. He should continue to get better.

Sometimes you're just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's a numbers game, as they say.

In a busy day, even by Kenny Williams' standards, the White Sox officially traded Getz and Josh Fields to the Royals for Mark Teahen, bought out the mutual option on Jermaine Dye's contract and all but waved goodbye to Scott Podsednik. This coming a day after re-signing Mark Kotsay to a one-year deal.

Williams also announced that Gordon Beckham will be moving from third base to second (kind of a curious move) and that Teahen will replace Beckham at third.

The White Sox underachieved as a unit last season, and with a starting pitching staff that might be the best in baseball next year, at least in the top-four spots, the team needed to make some changes in the lineup and on the field.

This was probably just the beginning of Williams' offseason machinations, but was it a good start?

Getz had a pretty good rookie year with the White Sox. Not Beckham good, but he was solid enough. The 26-year-old second baseman would have been a natural in the shelved Grinder Ball campaign, because he wasn't supernaturally gifted like Alexei Ramirez or a cant-miss star like Beckham.

Getz should have a long career, but he was eminently replaceable, and as Williams told him over the phone, according to the melancholy radio interview Getz gave to Waddle & Silvy on ESPN 1000, it was time to shuffle the deck. That phrase is particularly apt.

Williams lives for these types of deals, always trying to find undervalued talent, particularly highly drafted players who have failed to produce for the team that developed them. See, for example, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Bobby Jenks and Carlos Quentin.

Williams got them all for a song. But is Teahen the next Quentin (minus the Incredible Hulk intensity)? Or more like Alex Cintron or Rob Mackowiak, decent veterans who didn't do much in a Sox uniform.

Is this a case of a budding late-lineup threat stuck in limbo in Kansas City, or is it yet another example of Williams falling in love with a Kansas City Royal?

[+] EnlargeGordon Beckham
Jerry Lai/US PresswireGordon Beckham handled the move from shortstop to third, but how will he adjust to second base?

Williams traded for three Royals relievers in the past three seasons, and picked up one off the street. Needless to say, Mike MacDougal, Horacio Ramirez, Andy Sisco and Jimmy Gobble (the one who wasn't traded) won't be in demand for autographs at the 2025 SoxFest.

I've joked about Williams' predilection toward Royals before, and compared it to Bears GM Jerry Angelo's love of picking up Vanderbilt players. There is a method to his madness. For Williams, it's an extension of the organization's well-honed strategy of buying low and having faith that its coaching staff can straighten out any problem, be they mechanical or mental.

Teahen is far from a failure during his major league career, but he hasn't accomplished much to signify this move. In five seasons with the Royals, he has hit .269 with 59 home runs, 293 runs batted in and a .734 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage). A 6-foot-3 left-handed hitter, Teahen has hit .285 with runners in scoring position and even more importantly, he has hit .290 with a man on third and less than two outs. I don't have the stat handy, but I believe the 2009 White Sox hit .068 in that situation.

That's the good news. The bad news is that this move doesn't make sense. In Beckham's lone year (ever) of playing third base, he hit enough to be a front-line candidate for rookie of the year and his ultimate zone rating (FanGraphs' defensive metric that combines defensive range, double-play runs over average, arm range and error runs over average) was better than Teahen's last season.

Beckham, who got better at third the more he played, finished with a -2 UZR in 102 games. Teahen, in 107 games (99 starts) at third, had a -6.9. Defensively, including his play in the outfield, Teahen's UZR was -12.2, which basically means his defensive plays cost his team 12 runs.

The White Sox were one of the worst defensive teams in baseball last season. Their team UZR (-35.6) was fourth worst in baseball. The Royals (-49.9) were the worst. The White Sox's 113 errors and .982 fielding percentage were also fourth worst, despite turning the 10th-most double plays at 379.

Getting Dye out of the outfield (Podsednik, too) should help those numbers, along with a full season of Alex Rios, but how will Teahen help the team at third in the short-term? Getz's defense was hardly stellar. He had a -4.9 UZR at second.

At the plate, the 28-year-old Teahen hasn't shown much breakout potential. His offensive numbers are still slightly below average, and he's a 60-RBI guy at a so-called power position. He's a slightly better hitter than Getz, especially against fastballs, but he lacks Getz's stolen-base prowess and ability to make consistent contact. Getz stole 25 bases last season and was caught only twice. Teahen led the AL in grounding into double plays in 2007, with 23. So much for a speed game.

The rookie Getz actually played like a more valuable player, monetarily, with a $1.5 million value, according to FanGraphs. Teahen, who earned $3.585 million last season, was worth about $1.1 million. (Beckham was worth about $9.1 million.)

Williams made his big moves last season in getting Jake Peavy and Rios. It didn't help the White Sox make the playoffs, but given the long-term deals owed to each of those players, the deals were designed to keep the team competitive in 2010 and beyond. When Rios' contract was unloaded on Williams, thanks to his surprising waiver claim, it became apparent that Dye would be gone for financial reasons. There was seemingly no place to play Podsednik regularly. Fields was an afterthought at best.

So, Getz is gone and Teahen is here. What does it all mean? To me, this deal is pretty much how it was described: Shuffling the deck. But who is to say the new hand will be better than the old?

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He can be reached at jgreenberg@espnchicago.com.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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