Revisiting the Trading Deadline


The Royals were among the more active teams at the trading deadline this season.

With a bevy of prospects working their way up, the organization took an approach to move older players to make room for younger to fill in the gaps, both to evaluate them for future roles, and both to get solid returns in the form of even more young players.

At the deadline, the Royals traded Alberto Callaspo, Scott Podsednik, Kyle Farnsworth and Rick Ankiel and received Tim Collins, Luke May, Sean O’Sullivan, Will Smith, Eisaul Pimentel, Gregor Blanco and Jesse Chavez in return.

It remains to be seen what the long-term impact of the moves will have for the Royals, but the main benefit of the trades is this – there’s the chance for a long-term impact.  Let’s face it, Podsednik, Farnsworth and Ankiel weren’t going to be in Kansas City in 2012, and Callaspo regressed a bit from a strong 2009 that saw him collect 60 extra base hits.

Over the next couple days, I’ll look at these moves more in-depth to determine who “won” each trade, both in the short and long term.

Royals trade INF Alberto Callaspo to Los Angeles Angels for RHP Sean O’Sullivan and LHP Will Smith
At the time of the trade, Callaspo was hitting .275/.308/.410/.718 with an OPS+ of 95.

After the trade, Callaspo hit just .249/.291/.315/.606 with an OPS+ of 67. So, the Royals look to have sold him at the right time.

Sean O’Sullivan had just come off a solid start in Yankee Stadium where he’d thrown six innings of two-run ball. He posted a game score of 61 that day. Unfortunately, it was his second highest game score of the season, and his best game didn’t come until the last day of the season, when O’Sullivan pitched six two-hit shutout innings against Tampa. Everything in between those two dates was pretty messy, including four starts where O’Sullivan pitched at least five innings but struck out one or less batter — for the entire start. During that stretch, he faced 107 batters and struck out just two. On September 28, he walked six and struck out just one in six innings against the Twins and still got the win.

Basically, I’m confused by O’Sullivan. He doesn’t seem like a guy who’ll have a long shelf life in the majors, perhaps eating innings in 2011 before giving way to the slew of highly-touted arms bubbling up from Omaha and Northwest Arkansas.

Will Smith, however, was a nice find in this deal. Smith had been used curiously by the Angels, jumping from High A to Triple A, then to Double A before being traded to Kansas City. The Royals, sensibly, let Smith settle in at High A Wilmington for the duration of the regular season. He made two starts for Northwest Arkansas in the Texas League playoffs, including getting the win in the clinching game of the Championship Series over Midland.

As for Smith’s time post-trade, he was great for the Blue Rocks in High A. Smith came over with the reputation of great control and enhanced that reputation, walking just four batters in 56.2 innings in the Carolina League.

The key to this deal was Will Smith. Prior to the trade’s completion, there were rumors swirling that the Angels were offering O’Sullivan and an unnamed minor leaguer. Perhaps those rumors just left Smith as the unnamed player, but I had a sense back then that Dayton Moore was holding out for someone like Smith in return for his everyday third baseman and that stubbornness has so far paid off. Where Sean O’Sullivan seems like a depth option, Smith has a chance to open next season in Double A with a shot to advance to Triple A. He may beat the group of Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy and John Lamb to the major leagues.

Now, for his career, he may not be more than a #4 starter, but those types of players have value in a rotation, and you can never have enough solid, young, left-handed arms, right?

The Royals gave up a solid hitter (at the time) but one who didn’t fit into their long-term plans. Despite being a great contact hitter, Callaspo’s power of 2009 was a surprise and his 2010 saw his extra base hits go from 60 to 39 – a full third less in nearly the same number of plate appearances.

Maybe Callaspo turns it around and continues to hit like he did in the first half of 2010 and through most of 2009. In that case, the trade is viewed more as Callaspo vs. O’Sullivan, where Callaspo is still the better and more valuable player, so in the short-term, the Angels won. But even in winning, they’d acquired Callaspo for an offensive jump start with the playoffs in mind. Los Angeles finished third in the AL West, well behind the division-winning Rangers. So even in that case, they didn’t really win the trade.

In the long-term, if Smith becomes a reliable #4 starter with good control, and Callaspo continues to be a singles and doubles hitter, I think it’ll be a slight win for the Royals. O’Sullivan is only 23 years old, so there’s time for him to figure things out. If the Royals get anything out of him, it’s a solid win for them long-term.

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