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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Angels Trade Callaspo To Arizona

The Angels have traded Alberto Callaspo to Arizona, according to Baseball America, for RHP Jason Bulger. Bulger had a 3.54 ERA in 56 innings of work with AAA Tucson last year, and a 5.40 ERA in 10 innings with the big club, his first cup of coffee.
Bulger, 27, was a 2001 first-round pick out of Valdosta State (Ga.), where he was primarily an infielder for the first three years of his college career. Two of his brothers pitched professionally last year, Brian in independent ball and Kevin in the Royals system. Jason struggled as a starter in his first two pro seasons and had Tommy John surgery in 2003, but has moved quickly as a reliever since returning. He made his major league debut in late 2005, going 1-0, 5.40 in nine games. He spent most of the year at Triple-A Tucson, going 3-6, 3.54 with four saves in 56 outings. He had a 55-27 K-BB ratio in 56 innings, while opponents hit .244 with three homers against him. Buldger throws hard, sitting at 93-96 mph and reaching 98 with his sinker. His curveball shows signs of being a good second pitch, but he needs to refine his command and resist the temptation to throw harder when he gets in jams. He has a career 10-21, 4.28 record with 23 saves in 127 minor league games.
His peripherals look pretty bad, honestly, but in fairness he has been working in Tucson, not exactly a pitcher's paradise. Not a very impressive trade.

Update: Also in the Arizona Republic, which notes that Bulger wasn't likely to make the big club after spring training. Not with numbers like those he wasn't.

Update 2: The Rev thinks it may be a case, along with Paul Byrd and Nick Adenhart, of picking up Tommy John survivors on the cheap. I might agree with that, but his 11.79 K/9 at the Lancaster launching pad has yet to be replicated at any other level. Color me skeptical, though I like the theory otherwise.

Update 3: Here's a Minor League Ball diary on the subject, including a comment from erstwhile FutureAngels proprietor Stephen Smith, who brings up, as others have in the comments, Callaspo's failure to develop power and Bulger's two-year distance from his Tommy John surgery; Smith labels it a "good trade for both teams".

Update 4: Safely back home, with all my reference books at my side, I pick the following out of the Baseball America 2006 Prospect Handbook, where Bulger (I keep thinking of codpieces whenever I read that name) was the 26th ranked prospect in Arizona's system:

Bulger was a surprise first-round pick in 2001 out of NCAA Division II Valdosta State (Ga.), where he was primarily an infielder for three years. He doubled as the team's closer as a senior and showed a mid-90's fastball that got scouts excited. Two of his brothers pitched professionally in 2005, Brian in independent ball and Kevin in the Royals system. Jason finally made it to the majors in 2005 after struggling as a starter for two years and having Tommy John surgery in 2003. Shelled by the Phillies in his big league debut, he recovered to deliver scoreless outing in six of his last eight appearances. Big and athletic, he fits the profile of a classic power reliever. His plus-plus fastball features plenty of sink, sits at 93-96 mph and touches 98. His curveball shows promise and he can throw it for strikes. Bulger can struggle with his command and is prone to overthrowing. He'll show too much confidence in his fastball and needs to learn how to mix it up better, particularly against lefthanders. At 27, Bulger isn't going to get much better but his stuff is good enough. He'll report to spring training as a favorite to earn a job in the Arizona bullpen.
This also showed up at MLB.com and in the Times:
"We gave up a guy who is about Major League ready for a guy that has spent a little bit of time there and has some Major League experience," general manager Bill Stoneman said. "With the depth that we have in the middle of the infield, we needed some depth in the bullpen. We like [Bulger's] arm a lot."


"It was an opportunity to get a guy with a real good arm, and it gave us a chance to balance our club a little bit," said Stoneman, who added that he has had a number of conversations with Arizona regarding Callaspo.

Bulger sounds like Kevin Gregg.
In all honesty, Callaspo was not going to do the Angels any good. His OBP is low for a utility infielder, which is what he was turning into, and we already have Maizer Izturis and others. He wasn't going to play 2B or SS at Salt Lake, and they were moving him to third just because he might help a little there. This trade gives the Angels an arm at Salt Lake, which they need more than Callaspo. Whether he makes the big league club is irrelevant, because Callaspo wouldn't have anyway. Best case, he replaces Donnelly if he flames out.
I agree with Daniel.

The "downside" of the Angels' incredible depth at the middle infield positions, to the extent that there is one, is that there simply isn't room for everyone. That weakens the Angels' bargaining position. In fact, Callaspo's presence was arguably a problem, inasmuch as it would have required Howie Kendrick to spend more time in AA (unless he happened to make the big club), which he obviously doesn't need.

That the Angels were able to get a live arm for a 2nd-tier MIF prospect is actually a pretty good deal. Getting a AAA-arm is a lot better than getting nothing when guys become minor-league free agents (see, e.g., Derrick Turnbow & Bobby Jenks).
Except that that position doesn't make sense in light of the Angels moving Collaspo to 3B only yesterday, where he wouldn't have blocked anybody, save maybe Robb Quinlan if he didn't make the club as a reserve on opening day. He could have easily spent another year there, and the kind of arm the Angels got back on this deal just isn't impressive by any stretch.
It seems a strange move to me, too. Maybe they're making room to put Salmon on the 40-man roster. ... Okay, maybe not.
With a team in the PCL, the Angels have had an opportunity to see Bulger up close, so perhaps they saw something in him not revealed by his stats.
Not so much. The D'Backs' spring training facility is in Tucson, about a day's drive from Tempe.
Stoneman traded A-ball infielder Alexi Casilla for J.C. Romero, a proven major-leaguer, but was only able to acquire a 27-year-old AAA-reliever with unimpressive stats for the much more heralded Callaspo. Odd.
I don't really see where there was room for Callaspo at 3B, either. I suspect that might have been as much an effort to showcase him and increase his trade value (although it doesn't sound like they got much for him; then again, about a dozen ML teams didn't see anything in Brendan Donnelly. Frankly, I'll give Stoneman the benefit of the doubt when it comes to pitching).

The Angels' 3B ranks are comprised of Figgins, McPherson, Izturis & Quinlan. Any one of the last three could wind up at SLC anyway. Maybe the Angels are considering moving Brandon Wood over to 3B, and having him start the season at AAA as well. In that case, there really would be no place for Callaspo, although I'm not so sure that I'd rather have Maicier Izturis.
People seem to be bashing this trade based on the sole reason that (1) they recognize Callaspo's name, but (2) they don't recognize Bulger's name.

Bulger has some filthy stuff. He routinely throws in the mid-90s, with a *sinker* in the upper-to-mid 90s according to Baseball America. It usually takes a pitcher about two years to come back from Tommy John surgery. His two years are up.

Callaspo was a prospect but he'd yet to show the power increase expected as he got older. He's gone from being a top-flight 2B prospect in the eyes of most people to a utility prospect.

With Donnelly and Yan shaky on the back end of the bullpen, this gives the Angels another potential hammer, especially if K-Rod breaks down.

It's a good trade, if people would take an honest look and stop having a knee-jerk reaction to it.
...Tucson, about a day's drive from Tempe.

If by "day's drive" you mean "about two hours tops", then yeah. Day's drive? Have you ever been to Arizona, Rob? Hell, Tucson's only 500 miles from LA. That's barely a day's drive.
Except for

1) Callaspo made the top ten prospects list on an Angels system that's decidedly stacked.

2) Bulger did not crack the top ten on a lower rated farm system. He did, however, make John Sickels' 2006 top 20 at 19th.

I just don't see this as a particularly good deal for the Angels. They should have gotten more.
Yes, I have been to Arizona, Seitz. I should have said a half day's drive, but it's in the far corner of the state, anyway. Not exactly close to Phoenix, in any event.
"They should have gotten more"?!

Can you tell us what "more" was out there?

Can you tell us what "less" Arizona was willing to take?

If you don't have those answers, then you don't know they could have "gotten more."
Arizona is not exactly "a lower rated system." BA has them #4 after the Angels at #3, and that was before they signed Justin Upton, which arguably puts their system at least even with the Angels.
To the last two anonymous posters:

Can you tell us what "more" was out there?

Good grief, man, there's plenty. At the very least he could have picked up another minor league pitcher.

Can you tell us what "less" Arizona was willing to take?

Why Arizona in particular? The point is to get as much as possible in exchange.

If you don't have those answers, then you don't know they could have "gotten more."

How could anybody possibly know the answers to these questions? It presupposes I have access to the heads of the parties involved.

Arizona is not exactly "a lower rated system." BA has them #4 after the Angels at #3, and that was before they signed Justin Upton, which arguably puts their system at least even with the Angels.

Hm, that comment was off the top of my head, as I didn't have my BA Prospect book with me at work; I remembered them being somewhere around #6 or #7. Even so, Sickels' comments about their system thinning out rapidly after the top few guys is not encouraging.
In considering whether the Angels could have gotten more, one must also consider that the Angels weren't exactly dealing from a position of strength.

The fact is that Callaspo was blocking Howie Kendrick. It's no big secret that the Halos needed to move (and by move, I mean get rid of) someone. Wood, Kendrick, Aybar, Callaspo, McPherson, Izturis, Specht (sp?) & Quinlan...too many players for the positions available.

It's hard to imagine that the Angels could have gotten a much better prospect than Bulger. I suppose the alternative would have been to reach down to the lower levels of the minors, & get more than one player, who doesn't have to be added to the 40-man.
For referenc in your Tempe to Tucson travels:

Bulger better be closer to pre-2005 Donnelly than Kevin Gregg, is all I'm saying. Legit everyday prospects are more valuable than maybe-relievers, even if there's no room for the former anywhere on the club.

All that said, Bulger does sound like a Black-friendly filthy-stuff type, and the move creates clarity and room at the Angels' lower level. The next interesting middle-infield dilemna will come after Wood's proven he can tear up Double-A....
I think with al this research about why they made this trade, it reveals something about the organizational philosophy. They obviously buy strongly into having really good relievers and they recognized a deficiency there last year. They try to go for guys with high K rates and/or sinker pitches because they want to focus on getting guys out with men on. This guy would probably fit in perfectly with the team's other relievers (assuming, of course, he could ever make it to the big leagues).
after cooling down a bit after i heard the bad news, here's 2 things that still bug me:

1. i think we should have gotten more

2. (and this is the thing that really ticks me most)
"we needed to provide more balance"

#&%$#!!!??? you mean, after we let Jenks and Turnbow walk just a year ago for nothing, we all of the sudden need more power arms in AAA?


Bulger does now become the Angels best rh reliever prospect on the Angels. Now given the fact that they already have Yan, Sheilds, Donnelley and K-Rod along with Romero, I'm not sure where he fits in but to provide insurance in Salt Lake.

Callaspo strenghtens in already position player strong Arizona system, they are actually similar to the Angels in that way, very strong on top but somewhat clogged with 2 shortstops and three outfielders.

Poor Callaspo, first you have Wood, Kendrick and E. Aybar, now you just have 2 Number one picks, Stephen Drew and Justin Upton, one of which may move and since those two got paid a lot of money, where does leave Alberto
If we look a bit further down the line to 2007, presumably Yan isn't going to be resigned, so Bulger can take his place in the pen and is presumably on a much cheaper contract.
The Angels did not "let Jenks and Turnbow walk for nothing."

They were being moved off the 40-man roster to be placed on the Triple-A roster. The Angels had to make room for free agent signings. To move them to Triple-A, they had to pass through waivers. Jenks got claimed by the White Sox, Turnbow by the Brewers. The Angels got $25,000 each for them.

Neither had done much at that point, both have arms held together by screws, and in Jenks' case there's a loose screw in his head.

Turnbow's ERA at Triple-A in 2004 was 5.06. The year before at Triple-A, it was 5.73. In 2002 with the Quakes, it was 5.25. Just how long were they supposed to wait? How many other prospects were they supposed to let go to wait forever for Turnbow? How many free agents were they to pass up to protect Turnbow?

The same goes for Jenks, whose problems have been well-chronicled. His career ERA when he was claimed on waivers was 4.97, he'd missed most of 2004 after arm surgery, beat up a teammate in the clubhouse and got suspended for the rest of the year.

If being claimed on waivers woke him up, good for him. Baseball is a game, life is not. I couldn't care less about his departure affects the Angels. I worry about how his loose screw affects his wife and kids.
Anon --

The Angels did not "let Jenks and Turnbow walk for nothing."

The difference is academic. They got no players in exchange.
What does "They got no players in exchange" have to do with it?! The players were being moved through waivers to the Triple-A roster to make room for free agents. So they did get players. And the $25,000 would easily sign a six-year minor-league free agent if that were necessary.

If the best the Angels could get for either player was $25,000, then obviously they weren't going to bring much of value in trade. If all you want is a warm body with no real prospect of a future, then sign someone out of the minor-league free-agency pool. To quote you, "The difference is academic."
What does "They got no players in exchange" have to do with it?!

Everything. The question is really whether Stoneman should have given Jenks and/or Turnbow a chance at the major league level or trading them rather than letting them go without getting anyone in return.

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