Mariners Acquire John Jaso

Dave · November 27, 2011 at 4:36 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

The M’s have made their first move of the off-season, and my initial reaction is that I love this one. They’ve traded RHP Josh Lueke and a PTBNL (or cash, indicating that it’s probably not a very important secondary player) to the Tampa Bay Rays for C John Jaso. Lueke you know about, so here’s the lowdown on Jaso.

He’s a 28-year-old left-handed catcher who worked his way up through Tampa Bay’s system despite not being a scout’s favorite. He displayed a fantastic approach at the plate (career 299/309 BB/K in 2,550 minor league plate appearances) all the way up through the minors, and used his on base skills to compensate for just average power.

After tiring of Dioner Navarro, the Rays turned their catching job over to Jaso in 2010, and he responded by having a fantastic season, hitting .263/.378/.372 in his rookie year. His terrific approach at the plate continued, as he drew 59 walks and struck out just 39 times, and while he still didn’t show a ton of power, his on base skills more than made up for it. Overall, Jaso was a +2.7 win player in 404 plate appearances, and he looked like he had established himself as the Rays primary catcher for 2011.

His follow-up effort didn’t go as well, however, as he ended up hitting just .224/.298/.354 in 273 PA in 2011. His walk rate fell and his strikeout rate increased, cutting his production in the process. However, the main cause of Jaso’s regression came from his BABIP, which dropped from .283 in 2010 to .244 last year. Among the 306 players who got 250+ PA last year, that BABIP ranked 294th, and while he could have just not hit the ball as well, it also suggests that his overall batting line is worse than it should have been, and he could be a pretty good bounce back candidate.

Overall, Jaso’s career line in the Majors is still a decent .245/.340/.365, and that’s with a .266 BABIP, so it’s not like those numbers have been inflated by balls falling in. His exceptional contact abilities and solid approach at the plate give him the ability to get on base, and while he’s not any kind of thumper, he has enough gap power to at least keep pitchers honest.

Defensively, Jaso doesn’t bring as much to the table. He’s thrown out just 22 of 113 attempted base stealers during his career (19% CS%), and his throwing arm can only be described as not great. However, he can actually catch the ball, and while he won’t shut down a running game, he’s a good enough receiver to be able to handle the position. The Mariners will have to put up with the opposing team taking second base a bit more often, but given the offensive upgrade they’ll get from having his bat in the line-up, it’s an easy trade-off to make.

The M’s essentially just acquired Miguel Olivo‘s polar opposite, which considering all of his flaws, is a really good idea. Jaso won’t even be arbitration eligible for the first time until next winter, so he’s going to make something close to the league minimum, and they also control his rights through 2015.

Even if Jaso’s actual talent level is closer to his 2011 skills than his 2010 numbers, he projects as a +1 to +2 win player, and the Mariners got him for a middle reliever with a lot of baggage. If his BABIP bounces back to 2010 levels, he could be an above average catcher, and a guy they could run out there as the starter on a regular basis.

It’s hard not to see this as a steal for the M’s. With Jaso in the fold, the M’s can run a potentially effective platoon behind the plate, and they now have a solid catching option for the future who won’t cost any money for the next few years. If the M’s can make a few more moves like this, 2012 will start to look a lot better in a hurry.

Added point: Just for fun, here’s Jaso’s career line compared with the guy who has been catching for the Phillies for the last five years. They’re almost the exact same player, and Carlos Ruiz has been a vital cog on one of the best teams in baseball. Ruiz is the template for this kind of player, and shows that this skill set can do quite well.

Comments

53 Responses to “Mariners Acquire John Jaso”

  1. Nik Aitken on November 27th, 2011 4:40 pm

    Anything for a catcher that actually understands the strike zone. Sounds like a great move.

  2. stevemotivateir on November 27th, 2011 4:43 pm

    I like this move. Cheap, low-risk with pretty good upside, and fills a hole. I wont lose any sleep over Lueke getting shipped.

  3. Mr. Egaas on November 27th, 2011 4:45 pm

    Love it. Also, I think this deal broke Twitter.

  4. apiatt on November 27th, 2011 4:52 pm

    With Lueke out of the picture, I wonder if it will affect any of the potential bullpen moves for the Mariners this offseason…

  5. moyerLIVES on November 27th, 2011 4:53 pm

    Any legitimate worries about his plate discipline being affected by an (anecdotal) organizational commitment to aggressiveness at the plate? Also, how’s his defense look?

  6. Liam on November 27th, 2011 5:02 pm

    When Josh Lueke made the opening day roster, I was surprised how little was made of said baggage. It’s pretty much a non-issue at this point.

  7. djw on November 27th, 2011 5:03 pm

    Agreed, this is outstanding.

  8. scraps on November 27th, 2011 5:12 pm

    Waiting for the first comment that opines Who Cares, I’ve Never Heard Of Him, This Is Not The Way To Take Care Of A Losing Season, etc.

  9. henryv on November 27th, 2011 5:14 pm

    The guy has incredible contact numbers. 95% contact in the zone? 79% outside?

    4% swinging strikes?

    Please, please, don’t Figgins it, Mr. Jaso.

    Big positive: He is the only player in MLB history with the first or last name “Jaso”, so he is easy to find.

  10. Jordan on November 27th, 2011 5:17 pm

    Any + from any position at this point is a step in the right direction. But, it’s especially hard to find given the constraints at the catching position.

    I see this as a precursor to bigger moves and a move that might get overlooked when the season begins. It could end up having a large impact in the addition by subtraction mold.

  11. BackRub on November 27th, 2011 5:27 pm

    Big fan of this move. Only thing that worries me is why TB would do this? Probably some combination of believing in one of their young catchers and wanting to acquire a cheap, good reliever instead of dealing with the over-priced reliever market. Still, four year of Jaso will nearly always be more valuable than five years of a reliever.

  12. beastwarking on November 27th, 2011 5:33 pm

    scraps on November 27th, 2011 5:12 pm

    Waiting for the first comment that opines Who Cares, I’ve Never Heard Of Him, This Is Not The Way To Take Care Of A Losing Season, etc.

    So basically Geoff Baker’s follow up and the slew of comments that follow?

  13. henryv on November 27th, 2011 5:40 pm

    Big fan of this move. Only thing that worries me is why TB would do this? Probably some combination of believing in one of their young catchers and wanting to acquire a cheap, good reliever instead of dealing with the over-priced reliever market. Still, four year of Jaso will nearly always be more valuable than five years of a reliever.

    Reading their SBN blog, it appears that they feel that they have lots of catchers, and need a reliever.

    Also, they are unhappy about his 2011 performance.

  14. gwangung on November 27th, 2011 5:42 pm

    Reading their SBN blog, it appears that they feel that they have lots of catchers, and need a reliever.
    Also, they are unhappy about his 2011 performance.

    Given what we have at catcher, even his 2011 performance would be an upgrade for us.

  15. Bodhizefa on November 27th, 2011 6:21 pm

    If I remember correctly, Jaso has a poor arm and is very easy to steal on. So while he’s a nice supplemental piece, he’s not without his glaring weaknesses. I think Ruiz is a much better defender than Jaso if you’re really trying to compare them.

  16. MrZDevotee on November 27th, 2011 6:24 pm

    I read about the trade somewhere else, and immediately thought “Ooh, Dave is gonna like this one… uh, hopefully…”

    Such a simple move, that mathematically makes SO MUCH SENSE for this team…

    Fangraphs lists his value the past 2 years as $12 million… So we just “spent” an imaginary $4-6 million per year on a catcher who’s gonna cost us $427,000 in actual money for 2012.

    And he’s also handled a pretty good pitching staff over those two seasons– EXCEPTIONALLY well as a rookie even.

    And I definitely like those contact rates, which when you combine with his swing %, make for a really REALLY disciplined hitter, who doesn’t strike out much, walks plenty, and puts the ball in play. (2010 vs R, .274 avg, 292 AB’s, 49 BB’s, 29 K’s, and 80 hits with 24 for extra bases)

    He’s been a lead off hitter for part of his career, which says enough about his offensive abilities (especially as a CATCHER), and he was 5th in voting for Rookie of the Year.

    I guess for the Rays (and us too) the real definition of this trade will come down to– is he the 2010 version of himself, or the 2011 version? I’d settle for a happy medium, and cross my fingers for a slight bounce back up from last year.

    I figure we’re owed something nice here, given how Kotchman worked out for the Rays after he disappointed here… (Let’s get Jaso’s eyes checked, first thing)…

    Nice move, Mr. Z. I’d happily take a 1-2 WAR upgrade at every position for ZERO money out our pockets… What’s next?

  17. Sports on a Schtick on November 27th, 2011 6:34 pm

    Good trade. Best of luck to Lueke but this organization desperately needs catchers.

  18. jeffs98119 on November 27th, 2011 6:39 pm

    Too bad Olivo is still going to get 550+ PA–Wedge loves a gamer who’s aggressive at the plate! And he wants to play every day! Plus, Jaso has a bad arm and doesn’t have Olivo’s veteran know-how when it comes to “handling a staff.” Does anyone really think Wedge is going to sit him down for a guy making league minimum? I wish I could believe the organization views Jaso as anything more than a backup to Olivo…

  19. JoshJones on November 27th, 2011 6:47 pm

    VERY excited about this move. I’ve got 2 things to consider. Adam Moore’s status and the contract of Olivo.

    Any chance we can unload Olivo’s contract? I could see the Red Sox taking on his contract/salary for a Player to be name later/cash.

    Ideally, I’d love to see us trade Olivo to anyone willing to take his contract and have a combo of Moore/Jaso.

  20. wabbles on November 27th, 2011 6:52 pm

    I wondered about his disciplined plate approach being ruined by our coaches as well. I didn’t consider him being marginalized by Wedge in favor of Olivo but yeah, that’s a possibility as well. With that said, a 1-2 WAR upgrade at every position is exactly what this teams need, not Prince Fielder.

  21. bookbook on November 27th, 2011 6:53 pm

    Will Adam Moore be ready to break camp with the Mariners in any event? It didn’t sound like a slam dunk based on the AZL analyses I read.

    I can easily see a scenario where Olivo is a trade candidate at midseason once Moore shows he’s healthy and ready. Of course, this assumes the M’s don’t contend–as ZIPS will insist is the case :-)

  22. Dave on November 27th, 2011 7:01 pm

    If I remember correctly, Jaso has a poor arm and is very easy to steal on. So while he’s a nice supplemental piece, he’s not without his glaring weaknesses. I think Ruiz is a much better defender than Jaso if you’re really trying to compare them.

    26% career CS% for Ruiz versus 19% for Jaso. There were 0.7 SB attempts per game in the AL last year, so over a 120 game workload, a regular catcher would have about 84 chances to throw out a runner. Given a 7% difference in CS%, that would equal about six fewer runners being thrown out on the bases all year for Jaso.

    The run value of a CS is about -0.5, so six runners thrown out equals about three runs that he would lose. Add in 1.5 runs for the successful SB attempt (+0.25 runs each), and you get about a +4.5 run difference over a full starter’s workload.

    It’s not nothing, but it’s not a huge difference either.

  23. MrZDevotee on November 27th, 2011 7:03 pm

    BookBook-
    From the M’s website a few weeks back…

    “One thing the Mariners wanted to see in the Arizona Fall League was a healthy Adam Moore. And after a slow start back from knee surgery, the club’s backup catcher wound up passing that test with flying colors.”

    He closed out the AFL with an 8 game hitting streak, in which he batted .393 with six runs and two doubles.

    Full link:
    Adam Moore surges

    (I still reserve the right to be pessimistic about his future…)

  24. svonhershman on November 27th, 2011 7:06 pm

    Would it be totally out of the question for the M’s to rely on a John Jaso/Adam Moore tandem and try and move Olivo for… anything? Even a mediocre reliever to go long or middle innings. There has to be some teams more desperate for catching than the M’s. Dodgers could use a catcher like Olivo.

  25. Westside guy on November 27th, 2011 7:09 pm

    I know it won’t happen, but here’s the story I’d really like to read in December…

    “Mariners trade Olivo to XXXXX for cash considerations and a bag of Big League Chew. XXXXX’s #1 stated goal this winter has been acquiring a veteran catcher – a gamer that knows how to handle a staff and isn’t afraid to swing the bat”.

  26. MrZDevotee on November 27th, 2011 7:17 pm

    Dave-
    Comparing Jaso to our own catchers, if he can cut down on the number of passed balls we hand out, the rate of runners taking extra bases on us goes down on that end of the scale, too…

    And that’s NOT an unimportant stat when catching for League and Felix…

  27. MrZDevotee on November 27th, 2011 7:20 pm

    XXXXX’s #1 stated goal this winter has been acquiring a veteran catcher – a gamer that knows how to handle a staff and isn’t afraid to swing the bat”.

    Ooh, nice Westy… Almost makes this trade sound do-able, in a gritty, aggressive way. (Fingers crossed)

  28. MrZDevotee on November 27th, 2011 7:25 pm

    I do find it interesting in Z’s official statement about the trade that no current catcher is actually NAMED, but rather he says about the current roster:

    (Jaso’s) left-handed bat will be a nice compliment to our right-handed hitting group.

    Seems things are far from set in stone at the catcher position, as I doubt we’ll carry THREE catchers during the season.

  29. Mike Snow on November 27th, 2011 7:31 pm

    But…but…carrying three catchers would free Eric Wedge to use Miguel Olivo at DH on his days off behind the plate.

  30. Bodhizefa on November 27th, 2011 7:38 pm

    This is a quote from a DRaysBay author who knows as much about the Rays as Jeff Sullivan and Dave know about the M’s:

    He’s an awful defender. Bad throwing arm, cannot frame pitches, and is not a good blocker of them either. He’s come a long way from where he was in the minors, but he’s still sub-par for a major league catcher. He can’t hit lefties & his good eye fell apart this year because pitchers realized they could throw him strikes as he was in take mode and get him to expand later in the count. He shows flashes of power but is very pull conscious.

    So, yeah, it’s not just the throwing arm. Again, Jaso seems like a nice complimentary piece. But let’s not go crazy in our praise for the guy. This is a small improvement for our team, but it’s not anything in the realm of great news.

  31. G-Man on November 27th, 2011 7:45 pm

    There were 0.7 SB attempts per game in the AL last year, so over a 120 game workload, a regular catcher would have about 84 chances to throw out a runner.

    But facing a known poor throwing catcher, wouldn’t they run more?

    I took a quick look at Jorge Posada’s 2008-2010 stats, and there were well over 1.0 attempts per 9 innings against him. (His CS %’s were 17%, 28%, and 15%).

  32. Jordan on November 27th, 2011 7:50 pm

    Eric Wedge to use Miguel Olivo at DH

    with Peguero in Left ?

  33. MrZDevotee on November 27th, 2011 8:11 pm

    with Peguero in Left ?

    3B. (shudder)

  34. BackRub on November 27th, 2011 8:22 pm

    I’ve been watching videos of Jason on mlb.com for a while, and now I’m even more excited about him. He has a short swing with good bat speed and without major holes. He demonstrated an ability to hit line drives to all fields. Jaso has some surprising power potential despite his lack of homeruns, as 6 of his 10 career HRs traveled 400+ feet. Contrary to the opinion of Rays author quoted above, Jaso has an average throwing arm. It looks like the issue is his footwork, which often leads to him making off-balance throws when runners steal on him.

    That Rays author is also wrong when he says “pitchers realized they could throw him strikes as he was in take mode and get him to expand later in the count.” The first pitch strike % against Jaso
    only increased 2.5% from 2010 to 2011. The overall percent of pitches in the strike zone only increased .5% and his outside of the zone swing percentage increased less than 4% while remaining in the top 30 among MLB players with at least 250 PAs. So there were only small changes in how Jaso was pitched to and how he reacted from 2010 to 2011.

  35. groundzero55 on November 27th, 2011 8:26 pm

    And that’s NOT an unimportant stat when catching for League and Felix…

    If League is still around. I just read the Reds are looking to trade Yonder Alonso for a closer. Do it? I think so.

    He’s an awful defender. Bad throwing arm, cannot frame pitches, and is not a good blocker of them either. He’s come a long way from where he was in the minors, but he’s still sub-par for a major league catcher. He can’t hit lefties & his good eye fell apart this year because pitchers realized they could throw him strikes as he was in take mode and get him to expand later in the count. He shows flashes of power but is very pull conscious.

    So you’re saying he’s better than Olivo!

  36. G-Man on November 27th, 2011 8:27 pm

    I like the trade for his bat. Perhaps the M’s think they can improve his footwork. I see several sessions with Roger Hansen in his future.

  37. Goody on November 27th, 2011 8:28 pm

    It is unfortunate that acquiring a League Average hitter is cause for such joy. Quite an indictment on Miguel Olivo…….

  38. MrZDevotee on November 27th, 2011 8:42 pm

    Bad throwing arm, cannot frame pitches, and is not a good blocker of them either. He’s come a long way from where he was in the minors, but he’s still sub-par for a major league catcher.

    Overall, this strikes me as the words of someone who really didn’t care much for Jaso and what he offered to the Rays… I mean, he can’t frame pitches, can’t block them, has a bad throwing arm…

    but he’s “come a long way” from his minor league days?

    Huh? So in the minors he wasn’t sure which direction the pitcher threw the ball, was allergic to touching the dirt, and didn’t own a catcher’s mitt?

    Meanwhile, was 5th in Rookie of the Year voting?

    I mean, the very same website has another article praising his “legendary plate discipline” ranking it as within the top 4 rookies EVER since 1970 (one of whom, interestingly enough, is Alvin Davis)…

    In 2010, among 204 regular players with 400+ plate appearances, Jaso rated:

    11th in best BB%
    23rd in best K%
    1st in BB/K ratio
    1st in BB%/K% ratio

    So, either the catcher glass is half full. Or it’s half empty. I prefer half “full”.

  39. gerrythek on November 27th, 2011 8:43 pm

    Jaso can’t hit and he can’t field, other than that he’ll fit right in… oh wait – he WILL fit right in.

  40. NBarnes on November 27th, 2011 9:21 pm

    Given how brutally shallow the talent pool at C is these days, I have to like the trade. I, like others, worry about what Friedman knows that I do not. But trading an reliever (an interesting reliever, but a reliever none the less) for a viable starting catcher? That’s just pure win.

    I have my suspicions about Wedge’s relative valuation of Olivo vs Jaso (i.e. Olivo’s aggressive approach at the plate and veteran catcher-ness -> Wedge man-crush), but, eh, that’s just a subsection of Wedge being a flawed manager (they all are).

  41. lalo on November 27th, 2011 9:34 pm

    Love the trade!!! Great job Mr Jack Z!

  42. eponymous coward on November 27th, 2011 9:46 pm

    That plus Moore looking better helps. Now, on to getting a reasonable bat.

  43. rth1986 on November 27th, 2011 10:01 pm

    Nice deal. I’m a little sad about losing Lueke, off-field problems aside, I think he had the second best relief arm in the organization after League. Jaso is a fair swap, though. Hopefully the Mariners can acquire a high-upside relief arm on the cheap.

    I’d been hoping for the Mariners to pursue Ryan Hanigan this off-season, but they got an extremely similar player in Jaso. I love Jaso’s approach at the plate, and while he doesn’t have Hanigan’s defensive skills or hitting ability, he does have more power and a left-handed stick.

    I, too, would probably feel much better about our catching situation if Olivo was traded. The thought of Olivo getting any more than 250 PA makes me shudder. Hopefully Jaso will get the majority of the playing time and close to 400 PA. Wouldn’t even mind having Moore instead of Olivo.

    This deal probably only makes the M’s one win better, but it’s a nice start. Now we can focus on 3B, LF/DH, and starting pitching.

  44. The_Waco_Kid on November 27th, 2011 11:06 pm

    I’m really happy about this. It’s a good gamble. Jaso’s not great, but teams don’t just give great guys away, so I don’t know what better move people would want.

    But…but…carrying three catchers would free Eric Wedge to use Miguel Olivo at DH on his days off behind the plate.

    Dude, not cool. Don’t scare me like that.

  45. shortbus on November 27th, 2011 11:15 pm

    Jaso averages .76 stolen base attempts against him per game for his career behind the plate. So teams don’t seem to be trying to take advantage of his “weak arm.”

  46. Valenica on November 27th, 2011 11:39 pm

    Considering the top Catcher FAs are Ramon Hernandez, Kelley Shoppach, and Chris Snyder, we might have got a Catcher better than all 3.

    I like Z’s adherence to the NFL style, “compete for a starting position,” that the Pats (and lesser extent, Seahawks) use to build their teams. Olivo, Jaso, and Moore – whoever wants it enough, come get it.

  47. beastwarking on November 27th, 2011 11:57 pm

    Bodhizefa on November 27th, 2011 7:38 pm
    So, yeah, it’s not just the throwing arm. Again, Jaso seems like a nice complimentary piece. But let’s not go crazy in our praise for the guy. This is a small improvement for our team, but it’s not anything in the realm of great news.

    What I see out of this is that Wedge can use Jaso primarily against right handed pitchers and put in Olivo/Moore against a lefty or when he needs a day off. That’s even assuming he starts at all

  48. rsrobinson on November 28th, 2011 9:14 am

    I like the plate discipline but he sounds pretty mediocre defensively. Wedge also seems to love Olivo’s hard-nosed play and leadership so I’m not sure how much Jaso is going to play. He was cheap and this will shore up the M’s catching depth but I’m having a harder time getting excited about this as some of the others here.

  49. Rodney on November 28th, 2011 9:26 am

    Based purely on Jaso’s numbers, I love this trade. But like others, I wonder what the Rays know that we don’t. The timing of this trade just a few days after the new CBA is announced, which includes blood testing for HGH, is curious…

  50. Westside guy on November 28th, 2011 10:04 am

    Based purely on Jaso’s numbers, I love this trade. But like others, I wonder what the Rays know that we don’t. The timing of this trade just a few days after the new CBA is announced, which includes blood testing for HGH, is curious…

    Oh come on. So any trade that happens from here on out is suspect because of the new CBA? Do you think teams have sat around, twiddling their thumbs, doing nothing for the past several weeks? Houston fired their management yesterday – was that suspect too? Tampa Bay just signed Jose Molina today – were they waiting for the new CBA? What about the Yankees and Freddy Garcia – they have an agreement in principle but haven’t signed yet. Do you think that’s related to HGH testing?

  51. svonhershman on November 28th, 2011 11:35 am

    I think in all honesty Friedman just wanted to run with a defensive-mastermind veteran in Molina as the main catcher and run out their rookies a few times a week to see if any will develop to be anything special. Jose Molina would have been a great sign for the Mariners. He gets every pitcher he catches so many more strikes than the average catcher and he actually hit quite well last season. Would’ve been an awesome guy for Paxton/Hultzen to throw to next season if they end up getting called up sometime in 2012. I’m not angry about the Jaso trade, I feel like we got an interesting piece for someone who just wasn’t working out. I do feel like Z should just ditch Olivo and run with Moore/Jaso, for better or for worse.

  52. Nate on November 28th, 2011 1:12 pm

    I’m not sure how anyone can get a “steal” from an organization as smart as TB. Let’s hope Jaso can bounce back, at least a bit.

  53. JoshJones on November 28th, 2011 1:21 pm

    I’m not sure how anyone can get a “steal” from an organization as smart as TB. Let’s hope Jaso can bounce back, at least a bit.

    To assume that the Rays are always right on their evaluation of talent/trades makes a fool of…..You.

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