Thoughts on the Mariners trade of John Jaso for Michael Morse

The Mariners traded John Jaso away today and got Michael Morse back from the Washington Nationals. They didn’t trade Jaso to Washington, but traded Jaso to the A’s, with the A’s shipping A.J. Cole, Blake Treinen, and a player to be named later to the Nationals. For the Mariners purposes though, they’re up one Mike Morse, down one John Jaso, and John Jaso remains in the division.

The trade quite frankly doesn’t make a lot of sense. Jaso is better than Morse, and a comparable hitter, though the two do it in very different ways. Jaso is a high-contact, high-walk, moderate-power kind of hitter, while Morse strikes out significantly more, walks considerably less, and is pretty much all power.

Morse is a nominal outfielder, though he’s really bad there. He’s an alright fielder at first base, but the Mariners already traded for Kendrys Morales this offseason, and Jesus Montero, the presumed DH and/or first base platoon mate for Morales last offseason. This trade leaves the Mariners with essentially six guys (Montero, Morse, Morales, Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, and Justin Smoak) who are really only capable of playing competently at either first base or DH.

Not only that, but Jaso is a year-and-a-half younger than Morse, has three years of team control left, if his arbitration projections are right he’s make nearly $5 million less than Morse this year. Morse has only one year left on his contract and then he’s eligible for free agency.

Trading a player that’s younger, better, and cheaper for a player that’s older, worse, and more expensive doesn’t make sense. But that this was already a three-team deal seems to indicate that the Mariners aren’t flipping Morse somewhere else.

It also removes the Mariners only real catcher from the roster. Jaso was no defensive whiz kid, but he was better than Montero by a significant margin. He was also a very easy guy to create natural platoon with at catcher, as most catchers are right handed, and there are many right-handed catchers who hit left-handed pitching well, and struggle against righties. Jaso gets eaten up by lefties and crushes righties.

That it basically empties the catcher position—barring Mike Napoli coming available (Napoli signed)—almost guarantees that the position will be either less productive or worse defensively next year.

It seems likely that the Mariners first base and DH positions will be much better than last year but they are basically throwing six guys at a problem that should be solved by two, maybe three guys. They’re doing it at the expense of their starting rotation, and now their catcher position.

While Morse is likely to be one of the better hitters on the roster this year, he’s not objectively better than Jaso enough to justify adding him to the roster at Jaso’s expense.

This move basically assures that more than one of a few things will happen: Justin Smoak won’t be on the roster unless he really earns it, Jesus Montero will play more catcher than he should, the Mariners will trade away Kendrys Morales, the Mariners will sign or trade for a catcher, Casper Wells will be traded, and the Mariners will have an enormous roster issue to take care of at the end of spring training.

This move should mean that Montero and Smoak both end up in Tacoma. What it probably will mean is that Montero catches four or five days a week, which probably isn’t good for Montero, and almost certainly isn’t good for the Mariners pitching staff.

It’s worth pointing out that this move also caused the A’s to DFA George Kottaras. Kottaras is a guy I’ve liked for some time, and a guy catches, hits for power, and hits from the left side. He, like Jaso is no defensive whiz, and he, like Jaso, was born in 1983. He’s got three years of team control remaining, and has hit .220/.320/.412 with 24 homeruns, 36 doubles, and 91 walks in 694 plate appearances. He’s been a league average hitter against righties in his career. He’s basically what John Jaso was before John Jaso became the shaving-cream-pie-smearing, beard-growing guy we (at least I) grew to love last year (or in my case well before last year).

Signing Kottaras isn’t a rumor, and I have no source saying that it could happen. And even his Milwaukee connection came after Zduriencik took the Mariners job. But he’d make sense, and he’d pair with Kelly Shoppach, a move I’ve been clamoring for as a platoon partner and defensive sub since the beginning of the offseason.

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68 comments

  1. rxbrgr

    Odds are that unless the M’s trade for or claim Kottaras, they won’t have a chance to sign him. Kottaras just agreed to a $1m deal, and he’ll be forfeiting that money if he doesn’t accept an outright assignment to Oakland’s AAA. I don’t see him leaving that kind of money on the table (see Jack Cust a few years ago).

      • rxbrgr

        Thanks for the correction, I wasn’t sure on that one. So is that the case with even non-guaranteed deals? Because I know some arbitration agreements are often non-guaranteed…

      • I think what you’re talking about are split contracts, generally with free agents. The arbitration process assumes a certain amount of service time, and the only other option besides a big league contract is a non-tender. A split contract means that a player will earn a certain amount in the minors, and a different amount in the majors. Those are common on NRI guys, and not necessarily out of the realm of possiblitly for Kottaras, though unlikely.

      • For some reason @rxbrgr:disqus, this won’t let me reply to your last comment. This is my answer:

        The key point in that is that they “avoided arbitration.” It’s basically like any other contract at that point. Once you actually go to arbitration the details of the contract are out of the hands of the player and the team, and instead in the hands of the arbiter.

  2. maqman

    Kottaras sounds like a decent possibility, so does Shoppach, who was first choice. The M’s are going to be better than a lot of people, including some so-called fans, believe and not just because of Morse. I liked Jaso but he was surplus to immediate need because everyone was screaming for BATS! Now we have got Morales and Morse (the M&M Boys) hopefully they will cut Z some slack. He knows what he has and what he needs and he’s still got all of our good prospects. 82 to 88 wins this season, take it to the bank.

  3. The key point in that is that they “avoided arbitration.” It’s basically like any other contract at that point. Once you actually go to arbitration the details of the contract are out of the hands of the player and the team, and instead in the hands of the arbiter.

  4. The key point in that article is that they “avoided arbitration.” It’s basically like any other contract at that point. Once you actually go to arbitration the details of the contract are out of the hands of the player and the team, and instead in the hands of the arbiter.

  5. GoRav114

    The moves does smell a little like a desperation move to bring in some power and I think some credit has to be given to the M’s for being able to do it without shipping prospects. I agree that it wasn’t the best move though, it is incredibly difficult to find production and defense from the catching position and a bad catcher can make your pitchers suffer.

  6. Awaitingyourreply

    Are you aware that of the 6 guys you named as comptent only at 1st or DH, 3(Bay, Ibanez, Montero) have never played more than 60 games there in a season and two(Bay, Montero) have NEVER played 1st in a major league baseball game? Never mind that Morse has only played 1st more than 20 times in a season once. So 2 guys (Morse, Ibanez) are deemed by other teams much better than the Mariners to be capable OFs are not good enough for Seattle? I don’t know what the rest of your article says because I quit reading when you passed your opinions off as an understood fact.

    • This is confusing competent with experienced. Bay, Ibanez, and Morse are really bad at playing outfield. Montero is really bad at playing catcher. They’ve done it a fair amount, but experience means little if the net is substantially negative. This is why I said first base OR designated hitter.

      • disqus_qQLhst7cBF

        Montero is NOT bad at playing catcher. Why don’t you stop repeating someone else’s talking points. You want to talk bad. Olivo led the world in passed balls the last two years. Learn something about baseball before you prove to everyone you are stupid

      • maqman

        Casey make be mistaken or in the close proximity of too much good brew but he ain’t stupid, he’s in the top 3 of M’s writers, including pros. You want stupid read Geoff Baker.

      • disqus_qQLhst7cBF

        Nothing this guy has said is even remotely correct. However I do agree Baker is usually on drugs when he blogs. My point is, you give a guy a computer say someone like Casey McLain and allow him to blog does not mean that anything he says is either relevant or correct. Additionaly, most writers are at least objective in their writing. Obviously this guy has a hard on for Z.

      • CaseyMcLain

        I hope you opt to be more respectful. I am very willing to discuss the other side of any post, and I appreciate your opposing option. This isn’t productive though.

      • disqus_qQLhst7cBF

        That is a horrible analogy. Saying Montero is not bad does not equate to saying Montero is not bad because Olivo is. Do you even understand the English language or are you just trying to defend your ignorant posts?

      • CaseyMcLain

        The Montero not being bad wasn’t substantiated with any evidence, then. I assumed this was at least an attempt to substantiate the point, not just a statement about Olivo related to nothing and in no proper context.

      • TimA

        MLB GM’s and scouts on a whole all seem to agree that Montero is not a catcher now or long term. The M’s acquired him to DH because no one thinks he’s a catcher. If he could have stuck behind the dish the Yanks would have kept him and traded Martin, but he was expendable to the org. because 1B Tex DH Arod Jeter pick your favorite old guy, were full.

      • disqus_qQLhst7cBF

        What is your proof of that, the same GM’s said and managers by and large said Jamie Moyer couldn’t pitch and wouldn’t last long. . Look, Montero was a better catcher than Olivo last year and Olivo has stuck at the MLB for a long time. Montero is better than Jaso and will only improve.

  7. docmilo5

    Morse has been a .900+ OPS guy. He’s not a guy you have to take out of the lineup 25% of the time or more. You don’t have to PH for him late in the game. Morse’s last full season he OPS’d over .900.
    In his last 82 game of the year in 2012 (after cominig back from injury and then getting squared away without spring training) he hit .310 and 18 homers for the Nats. That doesn’t suck.
    I feel the M’s can stand a little bit of less than stellar defense in LF if they have a guy OPSing .900 and hitting 35+ homers. Jaso wasn’t doing that for the M’s this year.
    I like Jaso and wish him well. I think it’s pretty funny that most of the caravan may just end up getting traded this year. Jaso (traded), Carp and Wells all seem to have no place on the 25 man and it’s likely Carp and Wells get traded or are released during ST.
    If Morse succeeds, the M’s extend him a few years or offer him a Qualifying Offer. If he gets injured or fails, he’s not signed to 6 years and $150 million.

  8. I hate baseball writers

    You realize that the reason everyone always talks crap about the M’s is because of people like you right? The Mariners can’t make even 1 deal without having someone criticizing them. I have no problem with Montero catching, because sooner or later Zunino will be in the majors. I don’t care that we have a “log jam” at the DH/1B position, have Morales DH, Morse play first, and Ibanez and Bay can share left field while Saunders is in right, with Mr “I average 100 games per season” in center. I agree with you on trading Wells, maybe we could throw in Carp or Smoak in the trade as well. It gets so annoying to be a Mariners fan because every single move that IS A GOOD MOVE gets criticized. I liked Jaso too, but could we have really excpected him to be who he was last year for us again? Besides like I said before, Zunino is on his way and for now we can just sign some veteran catcher to backup Montero. Hopefully Ackley has a bounce back season, and have you forgot about Kyle Seager? Jaso was not our best hitter last year. Seager was. That’s why he won team MVP (I think, if not then he should’ve).

  9. I hate baseball writers

    AND, what happend to the M’s being in a rebuilding mode? I’m a lifelong Mariners fan and I have no problem at all waiting a couple more years if it means having a winning ball club. If you don’t have anything nice to say about the M’s, then Don’t say it. Move to New York, or L.A. Just give the Mariners a chance to get all their young players up and we will see what happens. There is no reason to criticize your team and make a bunch of crappy predictions just because they aren’t the most successful team right now. (And sorry I kinda got off track their, I guess these comments are more made for other people who literally just hate on the Mariners, and for stupid websites like the Bleacher Report, which makes the worst predictions ever). Seriously, The bleacher report is terrible. They/he/she, made predictions on what Montero’s stats will be, and when he will be inducted into the hall of fame. Idiots.

  10. McClain is great

    Jaso is better then Morse…..yeaaaa…..oookkkaayy…… Mariners don’t need a guy that has a good OBP and who doesnt strikesout a lot. We need a guy that can hit the ball outta the park at least 30 times in a season. Morse is that guy, not Jaso. Get a new job, and save everyone from a headache.

      • CaseyMcLain

        But he’s created equivalent value doing other things well, and could benefit from a shortened fence, too.

      • disqus_qQLhst7cBF

        LOL @ equivalent value. Enough of the made up stuff. Jaso was not a good hitter. He could hit RH pitching. He could not hit LH pitching. He was a marginal catcher defensively. Morse is an everyday player who will benefit more than Jaso from the fences being moved in. Give it up kind sir, you are just wrong on this.

      • skeetss

        The piece I think you are missing is that, with Montero catching this year and Zunino on his way,Jaso had no real roll on this team beyond July or 2014. He was going to be moved. If getting a guy who can “potentially” hit 30 HR for a platoon catcher, who will need to be moved soon anyway, is the best deal available, then make it.
        it is not a great deal, but it is not as bad as many make it out to be.

      • Chris S

        Morse has a career BA over 280 in his career at Safeco in an exceptional amount of AB’s, that’s good enough for me. ALSO at least he likes Seattle. He’s a nice guy who can swing the bat hard, and doesn’t seem to mind being on the M’s. In his rookie season with the M’s he played 78 games and hit 3 HRs the entire season. HOWEVER the funny thing is that all those homers were at safeco. (Which of course still isn’t great over that span, because I would say at least 35 of those games were home games) but still, he’s grown from then, and he’s better from then.

  11. disqus_qQLhst7cBF

    Mr McClain. There is no log jam at 1B/DH/OF for the M’s and here is why.

    One possible line up for the M’s.

    Saunders LH / RF
    Gutierrez RH/CF
    Seager LH/3B
    Morales S/ DH/1B
    Morse RH/LF
    Ackley LH/ 2B
    Montero RH/C
    Smoak S/1B/DH
    Ryan RH/SS

    Bench: Wells Ibanez Andino/Catcher to be named later,

    No log jam.

  12. Kyle

    Who the hell wrote this? This has absolutely no truth to it… it has made up horrible OPINIONS… And calling Montero bad for the pitching staff, I’m pretty sure he was out there catching for one of our no hitters and was Felix’s preferred catcher. This guy needs to stop writing. I could come up with a better article in my sleep. This is one of the worst articles on the Mariners I have ever read. We also WON’T be trading Morales. People need to stop complaining the Morse trade was better for us in every way.

  13. disqus_qQLhst7cBF

    John Jaso 162 game average .255 with 10 HR’s .456 SLG. Mike Morse 162 game avg .295 with 23 HR’s and a .492 OPS. Which would you rather have, a part time player or a 130+ game player with those numbers.

  14. True M's fan 84

    I honestly don’t care about who got the better part in the trade, or if one guy gets on base more, or if one guy is a terrible fielder compared to another guy. I just look at the lineup, and I actually like what I see. Just be happy to even have a baseball team that’s had some great moments in its history, there’s no need to do breakdowns on every move Jack Z makes, I for one have liked almost every move so far hes done (other then signing Bay. I’m not to sure about that one.) This is what my lineup would look like:

    RHPDH/LHPDH:

    1. Ackley 2B L
    2. Gutierrez CF R
    3. Seager 3B L
    4. Moorse 1B R
    5. Morales DH S
    6. Montero C R
    7. Ibanez LF L/Bay LF R
    8. Saunders RF L
    9. Ryan SS R/Andino SS R

    Bench:
    Bay LF R/Ibanez LF L
    Andino INF R/Ryan SS R
    Smoak 1B S
    Backup catcher

    • Chroner

      I actually like that lineup. The only thing I might do differently though is switch Saunders and Ackley, unless/until Ackley proves himself that he is who we hoped he would be.

      • Sarcastic GM

        Hear me out on this one….. Trade King Felix + Kyle Seager for……. David Wright. HA just kidding, trade both of them for Nick Punto. I hope Bay won’t be on team…

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