Tampa Bay Rays Should Have Included Tim Beckham in a Trade

Paul Francis SullivanChief Writer IDecember 31, 2012

PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  (EDITOR'S NOTE: IMAGE HAS BEEN DIGITALLY DESATURATED) Tim Beckham #64 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a photo during Spring Training Media Photo Day at Charlotte County Sports Park on February 26, 2010 in Port Charlotte, Florida.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays are seemingly closing the door on one-time No. 1 overall pick Tim Beckham. If that is the case, they should have dealt him to a club that can give him a change of environment to succeed.

In 2008, the Rays were making a run for the American League pennant. They also had the first pick overall in that draft. They had the unique opportunity to add an elite player to an already championship-caliber team.

The Rays selected Tim Beckham, a shortstop from Griffin, Georgia, over such players as Buster Posey, Ike Davis and Wade Miley (via Baseball Reference). Beckham received a $6.1 million signing bonus from the Rays, according to Baseball America.

The pick has not panned out. Beckham put up good but hardly eye-popping numbers in Single-A and Double-A between 2009 and 2011. He reached Triple-A as a shortstop and second baseman, but he did not earn a promotion.

He was only 21, so there was still time for his career path to meet the expected trajectory of a first-overall pick.

Then came his disastrous 2012 campaign. As reported by Evan Drellich of MLB.com, Beckham was suspended 50 games for drug violation and was admonished publicly by the team's vice president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman.

So as Beckham tries to turn his career around, the Rays' lack of confidence in him can be seen everywhere. Ben Zobrist is the starting second baseman and has a team-friendly contract through 2014. Hak-Ju Lee, acquired in the Matt Garza deal, is the team's shortstop of the future.

The well may be poisoned in Tampa Bay for Beckham, but he may still have value. As Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reported, Friedman is actively looking for relief help. A former top draft pick who needs a change of scenery could be an intriguing chip. The Rays once turned another No. 1 overall pick, Delmon Young, into a trade piece that brought Matt Garza and a pennant to Tampa Bay.

2013 will be a critical year for Beckham, who will be 23 and entering his third year of Triple-A ball. The time might be right for him to make the leap to the majors, but the opportunity for the leap might not be in Tampa Bay.