More good news: The Atlanta Braves just paid $3 million for a second baseman who had a lower WAR (wins above replacement) rating than B.J. Upton. Per Baseball Reference, Bossman Jr.’s WAR rating for 2014 was minus-0.3. Alberto Callaspo’s was minus-1.0.
OK, so this is apples and oranges. (Or apples and Alberto.) B.J. Upton has offered next to nothing for a lot of money. Callaspo will be making $3 million to provide cover at second base, where if memory serves the Braves just paid a lot of money to make the incumbent go away. (What was his name again? Started with a “U”.)
I guess the Braves’ reasoning is that Jose Peraza mightn’t be ready and that Phil Gosselin isn’t really a full-time player — Tommy La Stella has already been shipped to the Cubs for the reliever Arodys Vizcaino, whom the Braves once traded to Chicago for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson — and that Callaspo provides cover at second base. (And perhaps cover at third base, should the Braves find someone willing to take Chris Johnson off their hands.)
But let’s be clear: Even though he’s a switch-hitter, Callaspo was one of the A’s many platoon players last season — Oakland leads the world in platoons — and not a very good one. Playing three infield positions and DH’ing, he hit .223 with an on-base percentage of .290. (Back to B.J.: He hit .208 with an OBP of .287.) Callaspo doesn’t strike out much — 50 times in 451 plate appearances — but has little power. He hit four home runs with a slugging percentage of .290.
Since terminating Frank Wren, the Braves have traded away Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden for two promising young pitchers; landed the 31-year-old Nick Markakis (6.0 WAR over the past four seasons) for $45 million over four years to play right field; signed the 31-year-old reliever Jim Johnson, who was such a dud the A’s cut him in midseason last year, and paid $3 million to the 31-year-old Callaspo, who’s the essence of a journeyman. The only one of those moves I’ve even slightly liked was the acquisition of Johnson, a big-time closer not so long ago who might profit from working with Roger McDowell.
I’m willing to give the new regime the benefit of the doubt. Maybe there’s a grand design in place, even if we can’t see it yet. But I’d be lying if I said this first flurry of activity hasn’t made me wonder.