Roster Review: Alberto Callaspo

By Jason Wojciechowski on January 25, 2014 at 12:34 PM

Callaspo confounds me. More particularly: Callaspo's place on the roster confounds me. We know what he is: a league-average hitter (overall, not adjusted for position), and probably a good defensive third baseman, but maybe less good at second. A switch-hitter who never strikes out but who historically has a 70-point OPS split, with the heavy side being against lefties, though even if he only faced right-handers, his career .262/.331/.366 line fits very nicely with the .266/.326/.384 that MLB second basemen hit in 2013.

The thing is that Eric Sogard, given 410 plate appearances last year, had a .266 TAv. Callaspo: .264. Which is to say that if the A's want to start Callaspo at second base every day and send Sogard to Sacramento (with Nick Punto serving as the utilityman), well, that's fine, but it's not necessarily the obvious thing to do. Callaspo's making just shy of $5 million in 2014, pennies for many, but Sogard is still pre-arbitration, so he'll get something in the $500,000 range. Could Callaspo be traded and his money reallocated elsewhere? Is there a team that needs a third baseman (or even a second baseman) who could give the A's something useful? The thing is, a 1-for-1 swap type of deal, where the A's give up surplus and get help back in an area they can use, doesn't seem obviously destined to work. What do the A's need? A better lefty reliever than Fernando Abad for the couple of months before Eric O'Flaherty arrives? An upgrade on Jesse Chavez? A lefty catcher who'll hit more than Stephen Vogt? I'm no believer in A.J. Griffin, but upgrading his spot by trading a player of Callaspo's caliber isn't going to happen.

So maybe you trade Callaspo to the Yankees for a prospect. But what does that get you in 2014? It's too late to reinvest Callaspo's salary in the free agent market. All it does is, essentially, make for a more pleasing allocation of resources, a feeling that Eric Sogard isn't being wasted in Triple-A. And that feeling is useless when Sogard or Callaspo or Punto or Josh Donaldson or Jed Lowrie gets hurt. Better to have Sogard ready to answer the call than Andy Parrino or feeling forced into elevating Addison Russell or having to rely on Hiroyuki Nakajima. Depth creates this anxiety, but it's a better anxiety than the one that comes from not having a good backup when injury does strike.

The thing of this is that you, dear reader, were probably already fully comfortable with the idea of Callaspo playing second base and Sogard in the minors. It's just been bugging me so I had to work out my issues. Send me your bill.

I'm predicating my analysis on a thought that the A's best 25-man roster looks very much like the current MLB Depth Charts version. There are alternatives, though:

...

I'll tell you what I just did. I spent 30 minutes trying to figure every damn thing out and got nowhere. We could game this out. Probably I should do a post gaming it all out. The point is, though, that neither Vogt nor Freiman is a lock to make the team, and Barton, Sogard, and Taylor aren't locks to be in the minors. Callaspo's role, whether he's playing second base full time or in a platoon and whether he's part of the platoon at first base or is only an emergency backup option there, depends a lot on these moving parts.

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