Joe Saunders with minor league pitching coach Zeke Zimmerman at minor league spring training in April 2004.
This is why the Angels stockpile pitching depth in the minors.
The Angels acquired ace pitcher Dan Haren from the Arizona Diamondbacks Sunday in exchange for major league left-hander Joe Saunders, Salt Lake reliever Rafael Rodriguez, Rancho Cucamonga southpaw Pat Corbin, and a player to be named later.
According to the Arizona Republic, the PTBNL is Cedar Rapids left-hander Tyler Skaggs.
Dan Woike of the Orange County Register quotes Angels general manager Tony Reagins as saying that the Diamondbacks can choose from one of three players on a list. Arizona GM Jerry Dipoto told the Republic:
We can’t deny the volume and the depth that this brings us as an organization. The names involved in the deal on a prospect level, particularly Corbin, and the player to be named, give us extreme prospect depth, at a position, left-handed pitcher, that anybody would covet. In the case of the player to be named, we’ll have to discuss that as soon as we get to that point. We got to what we wanted to get to. We were able to add to our club now, provide for our club’s future and at the same time we were able to create a better balance and flexibility in the way our dollars have been allocated on our major league payroll to be able to better tend to the different holes on our major league club as it stands today.
Assuming the quotes from both GMs are accurate, it would suggest that the list contains three left-handed pitchers, all of whom would be considered top prospects. In addition to Skaggs, that list might also include Arkansas pitcher Trevor Reckling, Cedar Rapids pitcher Tyler Kehrer, perhaps even Orem’s Max Russell, who was drafted in the fourth round last June.
Major league baseball draft rules forbid trading a draftee until one year after he signs. If that’s the holdup, it would eliminate Reckling and Kehrer (who signed June 11, 2009). Skaggs signed on August 7, 2009, so he can’t be traded until then.
The Angels believe that pitching is the coin of the realm, which is why they’ve leaned heavily towards drafting pitchers in the early rounds. They’ve relied on that pitching depth in making trade deadline deals the last two years.
The Angels sent lefty Alex Torres to the Tampa Bay Rays on August 28, 2009, along with infielders Sean Rodriguez and Matt Sweeney, for Scott Kazmir. On July 23, they traded RHP Sean O’Sullivan and LHP Will Smith to the Royals for Alberto Callaspo. And now they’ve traded four pitchers to the Diamondbacks for Haren.
That’s four left-handed pitching prospects — Torres, Smith, Corbin and PTBNL — traded within the last year. Along with Saunders.
These deals leave the Angels dangerously thin in organizational depth from the south side of the mound. Scott Kazmir, ineffective and currently disabled, is the only left-handed starter on the parent club roster. The next “top” prospect would be Reckling, who failed at Triple-A this year and recently returned to Double-A.
Salt Lake reliever Rafael Rodriguez was long viewed as a toolsy pitcher with low-to-mid-90s velocity and a wicked slider, but was never able to pitch with consistency. He was the Bees’ closer this year, logging ten saves and posting a 2.28 ERA away from hitter-friendly Spring Mobile Ballpark. He’s been around since 2002, so some might think he’s older than he is, but Rafy doesn’t turn 26 until September 24 so he could certainly blossom in the Diamondbacks’ bullpen.
Here are FutureAngels.com videos of the pitchers sent to Arizona, including the presumed Tyler Skaggs. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch:
Shortstop Erick Aybar and second baseman Alberto Callaspo at Rookie-A Provo in August 2002.
The Siamese Twins are reunited.
Multiple sources, including MLB.com, confirm the Angels have traded pitchers Sean O’Sullivan and Will Smith to the Kansas City Royals. In return, the Angels reacquire infielder Alberto Callaspo.
Callaspo and Angels shortstop Erick Aybar were known as the “Siamese Twins,” joined at the hip from the moment they formed the double play combo for the Rookie-A Provo Angels under manager Tom Kotchman in 2002. The two moved up together to Low-A Cedar Rapids in 2003, but in 2004 the Angels separated them by assigning Aybar to High-A Rancho Cucamonga while Callaspo moved up to Double-A Arkansas. This gave Callaspo more experience at shortstop, while Aybar played short in Rancho.
The two were reunited at Arkansas to begin 2005, with Callaspo back at second and Aybar at short. Alberto moved up to Triple-A Salt Lake in mid-July that year, and after the season was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for reliever Jason Bulger. Callaspo later was sent to the Royals in December 2007, with pitcher Billy Buckner going to Phoenix.
It appeared the twins had been separated forever, except for the occasional matchup where Aybar’s Angels team would play Callaspo’s employer.
A rumor surfaced July 20 on ESPNLosAngeles.com, reported by Mark Saxon, that the Angels were pursuing Callaspo for O’Sullivan and a “fringe prospect.” A few posters on a certain fan site responded by smearing Saxon (read the comments), but Saxon delivered a baseball rumor that for once turned out to be right.
When I read the rumor, the first thought that went through my mind was that Angels general manager Tony Reagins was the farm director during the “Siamese Twins” years, so he knew Callaspo as well as anyone. Other than that, I gave it no more credibility than any other rumor that circulates through cyberland.
Off-field incidents aside, on the field Callaspo had perhaps his finest offense year in 2009, posting an AVG/OBP/SLG of .300/.356/.457 (.813) OPS. Of his 721 major league games through 2009, he’d appeared in only 26 games at third base.
In 2010, the Royals moved him to third base, where he’s been most of the year. His overall AVG/OBP/SLG were .275/.308/.410; away from Kansas City, those numbers were .274/.300/.419.
Some fan sites are speculating this might be a precursor to another trade, assuming that if Callaspo takes over in Anaheim at third base it spells the end for Brandon Wood. That’s certainly possible, although one could also speculate that the Angels might move Howie Kendrick and return Callaspo to second. Who knows. But whether it’s third base or second base, Callaspo and Aybar will once again be side-by-side on an Angels infield.
Regarding Will Smith, upon hearing that he was the second player in the trade I immediately remembered a conversation I had last fall with Royals minor league manager Jim Gabella, who runs their Midwest League affiliate in Burlington, Iowa. Gabella told me Smith was the one Cedar Rapids Kernels pitcher in 2009 he didn’t want to face, and that he’d filed a scouting report with the Kansas City front office projecting Smith as a #3 major league starter.
I suspect Gabella’s scouting report played a prominent role in the trade negotiations the last couple days.
Here are FutureAngels.com video clips of the traded players from their Angels minor league days (Windows Media Player and a broadband Internet connection required):
UPDATE 5:30 PDT — The Kansas City Star on the Royals’ perspective:
Smith, 6-5 and 235, is 5-8 with a 5.53 ERA in 19 starts this season at three LA affiliates. The Angels selected him in the seventh round of the 2008 draft.
“He’s a big, tall left-hander who throws strikes,” Moore said. “He just turned 21, and he’s been pitching in Double-A and Triple-A. The numbers can be very misleading in the overall projection of the pitcher and what he brings.”
When I was in Cedar Rapids last May, I noticed a number of jerseys had been mounted on the wall in the main hallway along the executive offices and suites. Some of these were jerseys that once belonged to future Angels, while others were from old Cedar Rapids teams. I took photos of each one, which are below.
Nick Adenhart’s road jersey.
The road jersey worn by Erick Aybar, Alexi Casilla and Sean Rodriguez.
An alternate jersey worn by Alberto Callaspo.
These jerseys are from various times in Cedar Rapids minor league history.