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Bye Bye Beckham

Is there any other profession besides professional sports where trades take place?

Like, what would happen if we could dump Emanuel and get de Blasio? I think we'd be dumb not to make that deal. Or how many surgeons from Rush would it take to pry James Andrews loose from his practice in Birmingham? Suppose we didn't like the sopes rancheros super chef Rick Bayless concocted at the Frontera Grill. Imagine if we then dispatched him to New Orleans in a straight-up deal for Emeril and his chorizo po' boy.

Of course, the world doesn't work that way, but baseball does. Before the days of free agency and guaranteed, no-trade contracts, players were chattel and trades were made with regularity.

In his 25-year career as general manager of five teams - including the White Sox from 1948 to 1955 - Frank Lane engineered almost 400 deals. At that time a pitcher named Dick Littlefield was famous not so much for his fastball or curve but for the 10 teams he played for in his nine-year career. Add another 12 in the minors, and it's a reasonable assumption that Littlefield kept a packed suitcase at all times.

Years ago there were far more trades during the season when GMs had no union or binding contracts to consider. Today trades occur primarily during the off-season and right before the July 31 trading deadline when the also-rans have been weeded out from the contenders.

After a quarter of the season, visions of the White Sox making the playoffs seem far-fetched. This is not the 99-loss team of a year ago, but it also is not a bunch which can challenge folks like the Tigers or Athletics. Not yet, anyway.

So general manager Rick Hahn, not the bashful type, likely will make a deal or two. The probable candidate to go is second baseman Gordon Beckham. At least he's been at the center of most trade rumors even before the season began.

Beckham started the 2014 campaign on the disabled list, and the Sox split 22 games before he was activated. Since he's returned, the team is 10-13 after a disappointing series in Houston over the weekend. Injuries to Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and others have stunted the team's improvement, so you can't pin the blame on Beckham. On the other hand, he's not the kind of player who can carry this team the way someone like Jose Abreu, who went on the DL Sunday, just might be able to do.

Marcus Semien, despite a .214 batting average and a strikeout rate of almost a third of his plate appearances, filled in admirably both for Beckham and third baseman Conor Gillaspie, who also spent time of the DL. Semien has had some huge late-inning hits, he can run and he's more than adequate defensively. Plus, at 22, he's five years younger than Beckham, and should improve at the plate.

If Semien proves overmatched, the Sox have Micah Johnson, who recently was promoted to Triple-A Charlotte where he's off to a solid start, hitting .296/.321/.655. Johnson, an Indiana University product, is 23, and hit .331 for three teams last season while stealing 84 bases.

During Saturday's telecast of the Sox's 6-5 loss to the Astros, Hawk Harrelson was talking up Johnson's merits, concluding that he's going to be a "game-changer." Well, if that's so, and he fills that role for the White Sox, he's going to play second base. Maybe Hawk knows something although the more I listen these days, the less I believe.

The White Sox also have two other middle infielders at Charlotte, second baseman Carlos Sanchez and shortstop Tyler Saladino. Sanchez, a Venezuelan, is a few weeks short of his 22nd birthday, and he's been in the Sox system since he was 17. His numbers aren't as impressive as Johnson's, but Robin Ventura praised him during the spring after he went 7-for-13 before joining the minor league camp.

As for Saladino, he's another home-grown product, having been drafted in the seventh round in 2010. After a college career at Oral Roberts, Saladino moved up quickly. He's been Charlotte's shortstop since 2012. Saladino will turn 25 in July.

Not long ago, Beckham was the team's Micah Johnson. An All-American shortstop at the University of Georgia, the Sox groomed him as a third baseman, a position he played when he broke in in 2009. Joe Crede's sore back drove him from the game, Juan Uribe opted for free agency, and heir-not-apparent Josh Fields couldn't play. The Sox were sorely in need of a third baseman.

So after slightly less than 100 minor league games and carrying a .313 batting average, Beckham took his talents to the South Side in June of 2009 when the Sox were struggling a few games below .500. After going hitless in his first 13 at-bats, Beckham showed a load of potential, finishing the year at .270/.347/.808. He was fifth in Rookie of the Year voting. In a 79-83 season Beckham was one of the bright spots. Surely he would be a cornerstone of the team for years to come.

Even though the Sox couldn't produce a legitimate third baseman the next season - Mark Teahen, Dayan Viciedo, Omar Vizquel, Brent Morel, and Jayson Nix all saw action there - Beckham was moved to second base, and he's become one of the best. He has range and a strong arm. He turns the double play as well as anyone.

But he's never reached the heights offensively that we saw when he first arrived. Injuries slowed him a year ago when he hit just five home runs and drove in 24 runs. He was idled again at the beginning of this season.

But Beckham is healthy now, and appears mature, seasoned, experienced and confident; he strung together an 11-game hit streak with three homers and eight RBI through Sunday, when he finally went hitless in three at-bats.

So why trade him when he may be on the brink of stardom for the next six or seven seasons? Because you have to trade value to get value, and aside from Alexei Ramirez, who is five years older than Beckham, the Sox don't have much bargaining power. It's a safe assumption Hahn's phone isn't ringing with inquiries about Alejandro De Aza's availability.

The ballclub is sorely in need of starting pitching. Check out John Danks' pitiful outing on Sunday when the lowly Astros lit him up for eight runs and 10 hits in less than five innings. This from a pitcher who is signed through 2016. The Sox were counting on Danks this season, and so far he's been awful.

With seven losses in their last 10 games and with Jose Abreu on the disabled list at least for a couple of weeks, the White Sox are reeling. They have three games on tap in Kansas City where Scott Carroll, Andre Rienzo and Jose Quintana will try to hold the Royals in check and hope that their teammates can score often enough to steal a couple of wins. You can bet the Royals aren't losing any sleep over the prospect of facing those three this week.

Meanwhile, contending teams like the Yankees and Blue Jays would like nothing better than plugging gaps at second base with a player of Beckham's caliber. It just might be time for Hahn to strike while Beckham is a hot commodity. It's not Gordon's fault that the team is playing poorly, but he certainly might become part of the long-term solution for better days ahead - on another team.


Roger Wallenstein is our man on the White Sox. Listen to him on this week's Beachwood Radio Hour starting at the 1:12:00 mark. He welcomes your comments.

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