During a radio appearance on MLB Network today, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez dropped the news that Atlanta has signed infielder Alberto Callaspo to a deal, pending a physical.
Fredi Gonzalez confirmed to us this is done, pending physical RT @JimBowden_ESPN: Braves are close to signing Alberto Callaspo— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) December 9, 2014
Callaspo, who played for the Los Angeles Angels and the Oakland Athletics last season, is a 31-year-old switch-hitting infielder who has split time between second and third base lately in his role as an infielder out in the AL West.
The Venezuela native had a down 2014 season, easily his worst in the big leagues, posting a .223/.290/.290 line in 127 games, which was good for -1.1 fWAR. He was roughly a league-average hitter back in 2013, and the Braves are likely banking on the possibility that his .242 BABIP last year will see a bit of a recovery, as will his power numbers.
Callaspo is a switch-hitter, and has done better against lefties than righties throughout his career (90 wRC+ as a left-handed hitter, 101 as a righty). If the Braves are planning on letting Callaspo platoon with Chris Johnson at third base (if he's even still around at the beginning of 2015), this probably isn't optimal. He'll likely fare better against righties than Johnson would, but I wouldn't expect him to be all that productive. What Callaspo has excelled at in the past is drawing walks, and Steamer projects him to draw a free pass in 9.7% of his plate appearances next season, a healthy number. He also doesn't strike out often, with a career K-rate only slightly higher than his walk rate.
At this point in his career, Callaspo is probably going to be slightly below-average defensively. He doesn't have great range or a great arm, but he won't kill you at either second base or third base. He's performed better at the hot corner throughout his career (7.5 UZR/150 at third, -9.0 UZR/150 at second), and he was an average third baseman defensively in 2014. My guess is that we'll see Callaspo at both positions with some regularity, sort of being used as a super utility man who can split time with Chris Johnson and Phil Gosselin at both positions, assuming that Jose Peraza won't be up in the Major Leagues initially.
Callaspo isn't a difference-maker, necessarily, but he could be a decent addition to a Braves roster that got nearly zero production out of its bench last season. Steamer projects him to post a 93 wRC+ in 2015 and be worth approximately a win, which isn't bad for what I assume will be a one-year, low-cost signing. A player like Callaspo probably shouldn't be starting on a contending team, but he does bring some versatility to the roster and won't kill you at the plate or in the field.
The deal is a one-year, $3 million contract, which is quite reasonable. I'd wager that Callaspo will produce surplus value considering the price that the Braves paid here.