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.