Thursday, February 07, 2013

From the department of meh - Alberto Callaspo

The off-seasons is filled with the news of signings. As such, MLB Rumors never gets shut down on this computer. Some of those signings bring a stir of interest as a team will sign a budding star to a contract to avoid arbitration or an interesting free agent that might make the team out of Spring Training. But an awful lot of them are of the kind that leave you simply making a mental checklist of the event. These are the "department of meh" signings. This week's main candidate was the two year contract the Angels gave Alberto Callaspo.

Now Callaspo is not without his usefulness. Since he has moved to third base, he has become a good fielder there and his last two seasons have shown his walk rate to record its highest numbers of his career as he has suddenly become a very patient hitter. For example, he only swung at pitches out of the strike zone less than twenty percent of the time in 2012.

But those two facts above are the only two reasons to have any kind of warmth for him as a player. When you think of third basemen, you think of guys with at least a little bit of thump. Guys like Headley for the Padres, Longoria for the Rays, Wright for the Mets and Beltre for the Rangers. Thump is not a word you would ever associate with Alberto Callaspo. He hit twenty doubles in 2012 with ten homers. He has a career ISO of .108. Compare that to Beltre's .196 or even Lowrie, the A's new third baseman, whose career ISO is .177.

It is this lack of thump along with a series of seasons of offensive ups and downs that have kept Callaspo as one of the weaker offensive performers for his career. That career now spans since 2006 with four full seasons and three partial ones. For his career, Fangraphs gives him a -7.7 score as an offensive player (runs above replacement). gives him a big fat zero, so that site is more bullish.

If we go by the Fangraphs number and look at all batters in that same time frame, Alberto Callaspo ranks 268th among his peers in baseball for offense. He is tied at that number with Jason Bartlett. Just above him is Hank Blalock and Ryan Sweeney. So yeah, that is hardly impressive company.

And so that means that all of his value as a player, the value that leads the Angels to shell out just a shade under $9 million for his next two seasons, comes from his glove and his positional or replacement value. Those figures calculated by the stat sites make sense most of the time, but personally, whenever a player's entire value comes from his glove and from the positional value of the position he plays, that is a bit of an off-put here.

According to Fangraphs' valuation system, that salary comes in below what he was worth to the Angels as a player in each of the last two seasons. There is no argument here on how their valuation system works. But when a guy is a negative, or at best, a league average offensive player (depending on the site), is not a great base runner, then paying for just his glove and his position hardly seems attractive. No doubt, it could be worse. He could have a meh glove too. But his contract would present just a bit more interest if some of his value at least came from offense.

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