The Atlanta Braves have completed a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers that will send infielder Alberto Callaspo and pitchers Eric Stults, Ian Thomas and Juan Jaime to L.A. for infielder Juan Uribe and pitcher Chris Withrow.
The Braves took just two months into the season to tire of infielder Alberto Callaspo. A free agent signed this offseason, Callaspo was expected to get some playing time at second and third, as well as off the bench. He seemed to underwhelm from the very beginning, apparently showing up to spring training a bit on the heavy side.
Despite getting off to a hot start at the plate, hitting .323 through his first 11 games played, he has hit just .158/.258/.211 since then. He lost playing time to youngster Jace Peterson at second base, and while he got a large portion of the playing time at third base after Chris Johnson went to the disabled list, Atlanta has apparently seen enough of Callaspo at the plate and in the field.
Callaspo was never a defensive whiz, and this year is no different. While he is not a liability in the field, he has merely been league-average. His -3.2 UZR/150 this season at third base is league-average, but it’s actually better than Uribe’s -5.9 UZR/150. Though based off of past performance Callaspo is less likely to improve on his defense than Uribe, who has averaged a very respectable 18.0 UZR/150 throughout his career.
But for the Braves this trade is not really about Callaspo or Uribe. This trade is about Chris Withrow. A 20th-overall selection in the 2007 draft (six picks after Jason Heyward) out of Midland, Texas high school, the big 6-foot-3 Withrow immediately became one of the top prospects in the Dodgers organization. His quick ascent to double-A landed him on many top-50 prospect lists in 2010, but then he languished in double-A for three and a half seasons.
The Dodgers finally moved him to the bullpen and his mid-to-high-90s fastball and solid slider and curve were able to shine. He cemented his place as a member of the L.A. bullpen from mid-2013 until mid-2014 when his career was sidetracked, as so many are, by Tommy John surgery.
While Withrow won’t be ready to contribute to the Braves until next season, this acquisition follows a pattern of the new Atlanta front office acquiring top-flight talent, even if that talent is injured. Max Fried was the big prospect in the Justin Upton trade, also coming off of TJ surgery. Manny Banuelos, acquired from the Yankees, is still working his way back from TJ surgery. Daniel Winkler is a Rule 5 selection recovering from TJ surgery.
Uribe represents better power off the bench than Callaspo, and it will be interesting to see how many starts he takes from Chris Johnson at third base. Perhaps one or both of these guys won’t be long for an Atlanta uniform, as the front office looks to make more moves leading up to the trade deadline.
As for the relievers traded by Atlanta, there is no real loss other than depth (which seems to be getting very thin). Fredi Gonzalez always seemed reluctant to use Ian Thomas in anything resembling a high leverage situation. Since getting demoted early in the season, Juan Jaime’s problems continued, leading to another demotion to double-A. Eric Stults wasn’t consistently good enough to rely on in any role.
Meanwhile, Withrow projects as a power reliever who might be able to close games for the Braves at some point. This trade is a pretty good one for the Braves, as they almost comically part ways with a bunch of unwanted pieces for someone with tremendous upside — like it was ripped from the AJC comments section.