Clarification on the John Jaso-Mike Morse Trade

I don’t have a good caption for this picture, but I doubt John Jaso would ever be caught in a tuxedo.

The trade that brought Mike Morse to Seattle and sent John Jaso to Oakland has become a point of contention for a lot of fans. Yesterday, separate from this website, I compared this trade to trading in a car for a car a few model years older, equivalent in class, but with more miles and less features. After I made that comparison I was accused of calling Mike Morse a “lemon.”

That’s not what I meant. An older used car still has value. This is a question of comparative value, and since the Mariners have several players at the 1B/DH/Nominal LF positions, it’s also a question of marginalized value. A portion of Mike Morse’s value is reduced because one or more of Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak, or Kendrys Morales would have accounted for a portion of his value. None of those guys will replace Jaso’s value, and that includes Montero, who is an awful nominal catcher who hurts the team every time he hops behind the plate. He probably hurts his knees too, and opens himself up for considerable injury, but forget about that. Jaso was better than Montero defensively, and better offensively. Montero has potential to be better at the plate, but behind it his value is fairly limited.

A buddy of mine runs the blog Fire Dayton Moore, and he said this after reading my post and looking at the Morse trade through Royal blue colored glasses:

My friend, Casey McLain, wrote on his blog why the deal made little sense for the Mariners, but that has more to do with what the Mariners gave up and what the Mariners already have than Morse’s abilities. However, it’s probably fair to say I’m higher on Morse than Casey is, all things being equal. I believe Morse’s down 2012 season was due to injuries that he was battling before the season even started. His numbers will no doubt be muted by Safeco Field, but he’s a proven power bat who would have been a no-brainer upgrade from Jeff Francoeur. And he wouldn’t have cost the Royals much, but yet again I’m left with the feeling that Moore never even picked up the phone.

There’s all kinds of really good stuff in there, but the one thing I’d argue with is whether or not I’m higher or less high on Morse than anyone in the world. Mike Morse is a very good baseball player. He’s got good platoon splits and has power. This isn’t a trade where the Mariners traded a thing of value for a thing with no value. They traded a thing of value for a thing with less value.

Imagine if you and I both had a coin collection (minus the fanny packs or whatever weird stuff). I have four quarters you really like, and you have 17 nickels I really like. Your 17 nickels are less valuable strictly monetarily. Let’s say I was those 17 nickels away from completing the entire collection of nickels from every year of the 1800s. If that entire set is worth more as a whole, then those nickels have a greater marginal value to me than they do to you. This is a silly analogy and I’m tired of making it.

Instead, let’s talk about the things that have been said about this trade that are equally silly, and why they are silly:

John Jaso is a part-time player, Mike Morse is a full-time player: This comes from the fact that John Jaso gets dominated by lefties, and Morse hits both types of pitchers pretty well, and pretty equally. However, Morse has only one season in his career with more than 500 plate appearances, and only two seasons in his career with more than 300 plate appearances.

Mike Morse can play the outfield: Mike Morse is a terrible outfielder. He’s about a -15 UZR/150 guy in the outfield. There may have been a day when he could play the outfield, even though he could never play it well, but considering Morse’s injury history and struggles in the outfield, both corners remain bad spots for Morse.

Mike Morse will play first base because Kendrys Morales sucks at first base: This is one of the most interesting falsehoods about this trade. Kendrys Morales is a +10 UZR/150 guy at first base. We haven’t seen him play a ton of first base in the past three years because he spent a year-and-a-half on the disabled list, and the Angels signed Albert Pujols last offseason. Not only is Pujols a high-caliber defender at first base, but he’s also got a lot of power over decisions like that considering the contract he’s signed to. Mike Morse is a league average defender at first. Kendrys Morales has been a better-than-league-average defender at first. Morse adds no defensive value.

Jesus Montero can finally play catcher: Bullshit. Jesus Montero is among the worst defensive catchers in baseball, if not the worst. He’s doesn’t block balls well, he doesn’t throw well, and he’s bad at framing pitches. His bat plays better at catcher because god damned everybody’s bat plays better at catcher. His glove plays better if it stays in his locker though.

The truth is that if you ignore position, Mike Morse is arguably an incrementally better hitter than John Jaso. Morse has been worth 61.0 runs above average in 1690 plate appearances. Jaso has been worth 22.3 in 889 plate appearances. But position matters, and as an outfielder, a position the Mariners could use, Morse is a particular brand of awful. At first base or DH he’s another in a clog. Jaso isn’t great behind the plate, but he’s competent, and a very good hitter. And since the Mariners basically have nothing else there, trading him for Morse is a significant net loss.

  • 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.

    Once again Jaso is NOT a very good hitter. Put him to the plate often enough to qualify for the batting title and his sub .170 BA against lefties will bring his real value down to squat.

  • disqus_qQLhst7cBF

    BTW barring a trade of Smoak ( which would be stupid at this point) the starting 1B/DH job is his. Bay will not make the team and Ibanez is now irrelevant on this team.

    • CaseyMcLain

      Bay and Ibanez both have guaranteed contracts. They may not be on the team, but their combined $3.7 million will be relevant.
      I appreciate you commenting man, and I hope you come back. Unfortunately between my full-time job and attempts to add content to my website, I doubt I’ll have time to answer all of your questions or disagreements, or continue to argue them much more. I really do welcome this kind of discourse though, and I hope you come back.

      • disqus_qQLhst7cBF

        Bay is 500,000 – Ibanez will be on the team but his role will be as a designated PH.

      • CaseyMcLain

        You’re right on Bay, 500K if he is in the minors, $1 million of hes in the bigs.

    • maqman

      Ibanez is a bench bat and emergency fielder, as he was with the Yankees. I agree Smoak starts out as the presumptive 1B until he shows he can’t hack it and then goes to AAA to try to hack it again. Currently his trade value is down so why not keep him as long as he’s still standing? Bay is not a problem most likely as his career looks to be behind him and if not the M’s got a cheap but good problem.

  • maqman

    Jaso is a good player I wish we could have kept but Morse is a good player (not a good fielder but Guti and Sanders will balance him out) who has raw power which Safeco demands. Jaso is a nice used Honda, dependable and with a some zip, great for daily driving. Morse is a used Humvee but only two years older, it can be used daily and can tackle terrain the Honda can’t, granted it costs more to fuel and insure. Life constantly requires us to make choices, we don’t all make the same ones. Which is good or life would be really boring. This choice, good or bad, pales beside the ones involving Hamilton and Upton. Thank the baseball gods those two came to naught, they were high albatross potential deals. Jaso/Morse not nearly so much. I will cheer for Jaso as he continues his career, except against the M’s. I think he thinks this was a good deal for him, I hope so.

    Casey I don’t know how you manage to keep this going and still have a life, but I for one am glad you do. I appreciate the interest you add to an old man’s life, thank you for that.