The acquisition of Alberto Callaspo may wind up being the move that prolongs Jemile Weeks’ stay with the Oakland Athletics organization.
The former starting second baseman had been relegated to a utility role with the Sacramento River Cats this season as the organization had committed to developing Grant Green at second base. Weeks, as a result, had spent 23 games at short stop, 17 in center field and 35 at designated hitter this season. He had spent just 25 games at his natural position.
That all changed a day before the July 31 trade deadline.
An 0-for-15 beginning to Green’s Major League career, paired with a handful of errors in limited opportunities in his first call-up, seemingly changed Oakland’s commitment to their 2009 top draft pick.
A .193/.268/.319 batting slash line for utility man Adam Rosales helped to force the A’s hand and trade Green to the Los Angeles Angels for Callaspo, now a third baseman with past experience at second. Calling it what it is though, Callaspo is really taking the spot of Rosales, who was designated for assignment, not the spot of Eric Sogard who is batting .273/.337/.380 while providing solid defense up the middle.
On the Major League level, the move amounts to a depth move and an upgrade of the utility role essentially. Spin it however you want, but a look at his numbers tells you that Callaspo, while versatile and, yes, still an upgrade, isn’t the long term answer at second base, nor will he become the every day second baseman. He will be in a platoon-situation with Sogard.
Moved to third base by the Angels because of diminishing range and the presence of Howie Kendrick, Callaspo possesses a .250/.322/.345 line with five homers, 13 doubles (18 extra base hits) and 36 RBI this season. By comparison, Sogard has 18 doubles, one triple and two homers for 21 extra-base hits and 19 RBI.
Deeper down though, the move can be viewed as an opportunity for the former starter, Weeks, to eventually reclaim a position on the Major League roster. He was instantly reinserted as the starting second baseman for the River Cats, spending the two games that followed Green’s trade at second base.
A look at the A’s minor league rosters shows that second base in Sacramento is now Weeks’ position, all to himself. He has no one really pushing him for playing time there. No top-prospect in Double-A Midland banging down the door for a promotion. No one ahead of him on the depth chart any more. Depending on what happens with Rosales, Weeks should be the first man called up if there is an injury. Now, Rosales could clear waivers and wind up back in Sacramento, presumably still ahead of Weeks based on his defense, but it’s clear by their willingness to expose him to the waiver process twice this season that they realize he is not the asset to the team that he once was. If he is claimed on waivers, then the A’s really would have no other option than to promote Weeks if any injury were to happen. Who else would it be? Andy Parrino? No, his .220 Tripe-A average isn’t going to be any boost to the Major League roster.
By comparison to the Callaspo-Sogard combination, Weeks’ experience at shortstop as well as the outfield this season sets him up for the possibility of taking over the utility role with the club out of spring training next season at worst. At best, he could compete with Sogard and Callaspo, who remains under contract next season, for the starting role at second base (again, in 2014). Even if he loses the second base competition, his ability to be utilized in the infield as well as outfield could slot him into a super-utility role that would land him as the fifth outfield candidate (with Seth Smith still likely filling the DH role) and finding time in the infield at second or short as well.
Of course, all of this is assuming that he is not traded this offseason, which remains a very real possibility.
At 30-years old, though, Callaspo is not the second baseman of the future for the A’s, and Sogard, as popular as he has become, really isn’t an everyday offensive force at second base either. Weeks, by comparison, still has the ability to be the dynamic player that burst onto the season in 2011 as a rookie. At 26-years old, he’s still a year younger than Sogard, and has higher upside than the glasses-wearing fan favorite.
A September call-up almost seems like a given considering his .278/.386/.375 batting line with 14 doubles, eight triples, three homers, 31 RBI and 13 stolen bases this season with the River Cats. Weeks batted .317/.403/.404 during the month of July. Showing his ability to be a catalyst with the team, he is batting .342/.448/.493 with two-outs and runners in scoring position this season. He is batting .292/.396/.387 from the left side of the plate this season, potentially slotting him into a nice platoon situation with the also switch-handed hitting Callaspo, allowing Callaspo to bat from the right side where he has a slightly higher batting average — .256 right handed compared to .248 from the left side. (Worth noting, his line as a right-handed batter is less than desirable at .218/.340/.322).
The A’s were left with other options earlier this season when they chose to promote Green over Weeks. Green had the better batting line at the time. Weeks simply had not done enough to unseat Green as the first call-up. Now that the experiment failed, and the Grant Green era is already over in Oakland, Weeks has to be the next logical choice, barring any August trades. All he has to do is keep hitting and keep biding his time. He’s next in line, and when he does get that shot, he needs to do what he did in 2011 and just keep running with it.
At the bare minimum, make the most of any time on the field during September and earn a spot with the Major League club come spring, or build enough value to find a home with a new club this offseason via trade.
Callaspo is a nice addition to help the A’s win now, but don’t fool yourself into thinking he is a long-term road block or hurdle for Weeks. Callaspo landing with the A’s, and the simultaneous departure of Grant Green simplified Weeks’ path back to the Majors.
For proof, all you need to do is look at the daily lineups of the River Cats and see who is now playing second base.