|The Royals traded righthander Billy Buckner to the Diamondbacks for versatile infielder Alberto Callaspo in a Dec. 14 trade.|
|The Big Leaguers|
|Callaspo, 24, never strikes out. In 651 minor league games, the switch-hitter sports a 228-141 walk-to-strikeout mark to go with .317/.370/.437 averages. However, in 186 big league at-bats spread over two seasons, Callaspo has hit a tame .220/.272/.280. He does offer positional versatility, though. Signed out of Venezuela by the Angels in 2001 and traded to Arizona in February 2006 for Jason Bulger, Callaspo has played third base, second base, shortstop and both corner outfield spots for the Diamondbacks. Second base is his best position. The toughest minor league batter to strike out in 2004, 2005 and 2006, Callaspo has amazing plate coverage and knowledge of the strike zone, but lacks the power to discourage pitchers from challenging him. Though he runs well, he’s a poor basestealer.|
|Buckner, 24, made his big league debut in August, appearing in seven games (five starts) for the Royals. While the results were poor—1-2, 5.29 with 17-16 K-BB in 34 innings—he offers a three-pitch mix and mid-rotation potential. A second-round pick from South Carolina in 2004, Buckner commands a live, low-90s sinker that generates plenty of groundballs. He added a reliable changeup in 2007 to go with his plus spike curveball with sharp tilt. His breaking ball neutralizes both righthanded and lefthanded batters. Buckner improved his command last season, posting his best strikeout-walk ratio and allowing markedly fewer baserunners per inning.|
|The Diamondbacks did well to acquire pitching depth in exchange for a player who served a utility role. With regulars entrenched around the infield—and Chad Tracy and Mark Reynolds vying for third-base time—Arizona had no obvious place to play Callaspo.
The Royals don’t have an obvious place for Callaspo to play, either. His best position is second base, where Mark Grudzielanek played last year, and he’s not going to replace Alex Gordon at third base. The Royals even have a cheap, effective reserve infielder in Esteban German.
Callaspo gives the Royals depth, to be sure, but it’s unclear how he fits—or how second-base depth is preferable to pitching depth.