July 31, 2013
The A's Add Callaspo
In January, the Angels signed Alberto Callaspo to a two-year extension, and thus the plan was complete. Every member of the Angels’ lineup was signed or under team control through 2014, and all but Callaspo through 2015. This was a great plan if you thought the Angels had a good lineup, which most of us did. Midway through a wreck of a season, there is reconsidering to be done, and the Angels have reconsidered Callaspo.
Callaspo was always the least essential part of the plan, because the one true prospect in the system is Kaleb Cowart, a third baseman who had just graduated from High-A. Cowart is still a prospect but not nearly so certain of one. In Double-A Arkansas this year he is hitting .217/.282/.305, with a lousy fielding percentage for good measure. Arkansas is a brutal place to hit, but no park can excuse a .217/.282/.305 line. It’s been a steady flop, too: his best month, May, produced a .240/.290/.340 performance. This year’s crop of free agent third basemen is nearly as bad as last winter’s: Mark Reynolds, Juan Uribe, Michael Young, and Kevin Youkilis and Eric Chavez redux. That the Angels are trading away Callaspo now, with Cowart further away than ever, raises questions about 2014. Do they see themselves as contenders next year? The culture of the Angels demands it. But a losing hand is a losing hand. This could presage a larger overhaul of a roster that was largely seen as stable.
Green is the first piece of that. He hit .325/.379/.500 in Triple-A this year, the second time he has torched pitchers in a very generous hitting environment. Nick J. Faleris wrote this month that Green “projects to have average tools across the board, with a chance for an above-average hit tool thanks to an improved approach at the plate and a simple swing that helps the barrel to the ball more often than not. While he has shown some over-the-fence pop during his minor-league tenure, those power spikes have come in home run-friendly environments, and the odds are that Green will be a much larger doubles threat as a major leaguer—particularly in the spacious Coliseum.” Or a spacious Angel Stadium.
At least one Angels writer has speculated that another trade will be coming, based on Green's position:
First they must determine what position he plays. It’s a leap to think that this move frees the Angels to trade their shortstop. Said Faleris,
Green has improved his production in the field through reps and instruction, but the strongest catalyst for the positive growth may have been the simple switch off the six-spot. At shortstop, his range was pushed at the margins, often leading to hurried actions and imperfect execution. He is a more deliberate defender at second, but has enough athleticism and body control to make the necessary pivots, and his lower half works well enough to cover the necessary ground without sacrificing his ability to finish.
Green, for what it’s worth, also played 11 games at third base last year, but his arm strength has always had its detractors. If he’s limited to second base, then a trade of Howie Kendrick (either this week or over the winter) should bring back an impressive haul, including, perhaps, the long-term answer at third.
Acquired 3B-S Alberto Callaspo from Los Angeles Angels for 2B-R Grant Green [7/30]
Callaspo has been a nifty under-the-radar bargain, matching, for example, Ryan Zimmerman’s value (by multiple metrics) from 2011-2012 while barely earning enough to buy a decent house. He might actually be Tony Reagins’ best non-draft move.
Part of that value comes from ball four—he led the Angels in OBP in 2011—but most has come from superb defense at third base. His defense wasn’t as sharp this year, particularly during a throwing slump in June, but whether we should take the half-season’s worth of defensive metrics with skepticism becomes moot, as the A’s will play him at second. His history there suggests some potential for severe disappointment. In 2009, his last season at the keystone, Baseball-Reference rated him 14 runs below average, UZR put him 11 under, and we had him three runs below. He’s got a squat build, and he doesn’t move all that gracefully; his defense at third was notable for how well he could play a hop.
He might slot in as no more than the small half of a platoon at second (he’s a career .301/.347/.416 hitter from the right side, and Eric Sogard bats from the left), while adding depth on the bench. Given the market for third basemen this winter, don’t be surprised if the A’s simply figure they can get something better than Grant Green for him in a trade around December, while drawing on the versatility and insurance he provides this postseason.