The Twins have signed infielder Tim Beckham, the top overall pick in the 2008 amateur draft, to a minor-league deal, Dan Hayes of The Athletic reported this morning. Darren Wolfson of Minneapolis’ KSTP News reports that the deal will pay Beckham roughly $1MM should he make the big-league roster.
Beckham signed with the Rays for a then-record $6.15MM (the Giants gave Buster Posey, drafted fifth overall the same year, $6.2MM shortly thereafter) but never quite hit his stride in the minors, posting a solid-if-unspectacular .275/.328/.389 line as a 19-year-old at Low-A Bowling Green in 2009 and a similar .256/.346/.359 line at High-A Charlotte in 2010. Near-identical numbers at Double-A Montgomery in 2011 earned him a 24-game stint at Triple-A Durham, but he hit his first major snag in 2012, when a second positive test for what MLB calls “drugs of abuse” (a set of non-performance-enhancing recreational drugs that includes marijuana) landed him a 50-game suspension.
After repeating Triple-A in 2013 (where his .276/.342/.387 batting line again effectively matched his standard minor-league output), Beckham logged eight trips to the plate across five games in the bigs after a September call-up. A torn ACL suffered during an offseason workout robbed the one-time top prospect of his 2014 season, and his production thereafter never approached the lofty expectations attached to a top overall pick. After posting a .247/.299/.421 line in 791 plate appearances across parts of four seasons in Tampa, the Rays shipped him to the Orioles for pitcher Tobias Myers at the 2017 trade deadline.
That 2017 season remains Beckham’s best, with his .278/.328/.454 overall line (including a .306/.348/.523 mark in 50 games in Baltimore) representing a clear high-water mark; his 22 homers, 62 RBIs, and 2.5 bWAR were also all career bests. In total, Beckham, who hasn’t seen the majors since logging time at five positions in 88 games with Seattle in 2019, has tallied a serviceable .249/.302/.431 triple-slash in parts of six big-league seasons. His 2019 season ended early after he tested positive for the anabolic steroid Stanozolol, earning him an 80-game suspension per the terms of MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
While it’s clear that Beckham — who’ll play at age 32 in 2022 — will never reach the ceiling many envisioned for the consensus top high school prospect in the 2008 draft, his career numbers suggest he might still be a useful big-league player, particularly given his positional versatility. The Twins are probably set at the corners between Josh Donaldson and Miguel Sano, but their middle infield remains in flux. Jorge Polanco is a certainty to man either second or shortstop — Luis Arraez could shift to an everyday role at the keystone if Polanco slots in at short — but manager Rocco Baldelli may prefer to move Arraez between second and third, particularly should the Twins look to keep Donaldson healthy through regular time at DH.
Royce Lewis (a former top pick himself, and who missed all of 2021 with his own ACL tear) remains the likely shortstop of the future in Minnesota, but he hasn’t played since 2019 and isn’t likely to see the bigs in 2022 unless he blows upper-minors competition out of the water for at least a few months. While the Twins were active at the periphery on some bigger names ahead of the lockout and will likely at least do their due diligence on Trevor Story whenever it ends, they’re much likelier to look for a short-term fix.
There’s every reason to expect Beckham to get a real shot to compete for a bench role in the Twin Cities, particularly if the club’s plan includes Arraez assuming a more regular starting role. As things stand now, he’d likely compete with Nick Gordon and perhaps prospect Austin Martin (who’s never played above Double-A but could be given a shot to compete for the starting role at short) for a utility role on the Twins bench.
Though he hasn’t seen the majors since 2019, Beckham did have his best minor-league seasons in 2021. He posted a .279/.330/.546 line in 45 games with the Charlotte Knights, the Triple-A affiliate of the White Sox. If Beckham doesn’t make the big-league roster, the Twins could also look to stash him at Triple-A St. Paul as injury cover.