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Topic: John Jaso

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January 28, 2013 at 9:12 AM

Mariners heading into spring training with intriguing offense

The return of Michael Morse to Seattle is one of the intriguing upgrades the Mariners have made this off-season. Photo Credit: AP

Great to be back in town after a couple of weeks overseas. While I was away, I watched with interest as the Mariners attempted to upgrade their offense, getting rejected by Justin Upton before trading for Michael Morse. There were many things I wanted to write at the time, but with only texting capabilities, a few blurbs on Twitter were the best that could be managed from the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Looking at it now, the Mariners have as intriguing an offense as I can remember since I started covering the team late in 2006. They have clearly upgraded the middle of their batting order with both Morse and Kendrys Morales, while the wild-card to all of this is what moving in the fences could do for the club as far as power potential. When you look at the money involved, the Mariners effectively pulled off the acquisitions for a money cost of about $2 million between what they are paying Morales and Morse compared to the arbitration awards given Jason Vargas and John Jaso — the players given up in trade.

For my part, Vargas at $8.5 million is too pricey for a team determined to keep payroll below $100 million, so that’s a no-brainer and he should do well in Anaheim with a team that can afford that for a mid-rotation lefty. As for Jaso, I know there was a lot of teeth-gnashing locally over his departure, but again, the Mariners were not the type of team that were going to benefit the most from his services.

Jaso’s fate with Seattle was pretty much sealed the minute the Mariners made catcher Mike Zunino their No. 1 draft pick. With the idea to fast-track Zunino to the big leagues in a year or two — and 23-year-old Jesus Montero around as last winter’s big trade acquisition — there was not going to be enough playing time for Jaso a season or less down the road. The Mariners actually explored trading Jaso at last summer’s July 31 deadline and even after that and were somewhat surprised not to find much demand for his services.

One Mariners official I spoke to about Jaso in December told me the club had thought he profiled as the perfect addition for a National League contender, given how many more pinch-hitting opportunities he could have had in that league. The Mariners valued Jaso highly in exactly the role he was used in — as a part-time catcher and stellar late bat off the bench. They knew that part-time success in a limited number of at-bats does not always translate to the same numbers when playing time increases to 500 or 600 at-bats in a full-time role. That factor, plus Jaso’s defensive limitations behind the plate (one reason he caught consecutive games only three times all season) meant he was never going to be afforded a full-time opportunity by the Mariners.

And that’s why the team spent most of this off-season including him in trade proposals — from the late November talks with the Pirates about a deal for outfielder Garrett Jones that we reported on, to the Upton negotiations with Arizona, then, finally, to the Morse trade. Going forward, I think the A’s are the perfect AL club for Jaso. They are coming off a division title and hoping to contend again, wanted a second catcher to go with young Derek Norris and stand to benefit greatly from having a steel-nerved Jaso come off the bench late — given all the close games their still-young squad played last year.

If Jaso can develop beyond a part-time role in Oakland, then good for him. Point is, he was never going to get that chance with Seattle given the big commitments the Mariners have already made to get both Zunino and Montero. And as a backup catcher/pinch-hitter, Jaso’s $1.8 million arbitration award is about the limit a lesser-payroll team would want to spend for that. Jaso will be getting pricey his next two club controlled years if he indeed has peaked in the role best-suited to his abilities, so, the trading “three years of Jaso for one year of Morse” has been, I think, a tad overstated.

So, enough about Jaso. Now, on to the Mariners moving forward.

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Comments | More in trades | Topics: Jack Zduriencik, John Jaso, kendrys morales

January 16, 2013 at 5:46 PM

Mariners acquire Morse, send Jaso to Oakland

Geoff BakerĀ  is on vacation and Larry Stone is otherwise occupied at the moment. But we wanted to make sure to pass along the news of the day, that the Mariners have acquired outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse from Washington in a three-team deal that sent catcher/first baseman John Jaso to Oakland. Here are some details. Mariner general…

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Comments | More in trades | Topics: John Jaso, mike morse, Washington nationals

December 2, 2012 at 7:06 PM

Here’s a trade possibility for the Mariners you haven’t heard about yet: Pirates slugger Garrett Jones

The lobby at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville was filled with reporters and team executives by late this afternoon.

Things are bustling in the hallways of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel here in Nashville as team executives check in for the baseball winter meetings, watched ever-so-closely by media types from around the country,as well as Japan, Latin America and Canada. I saw Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik heading off with team president Chuck Armstrong not too long ago. Zduriencik got here yesterday and has been involved in an assortment of meetings both with his own staffers as well as others.

Earlier today, I outlined a series of potential trades and free agent signings the Mariners might pursue on the bigger end of the spectrum if they want to make an impact.

But I’ve also been told that the Mariners, in weeks leading up to these meetings, have had talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates concerning first baseman/right fielder Garrett Jones. Now, let me repeat: this is just one of many conversations the Mariners have had with various teams, but I’m told it got beyond the mere single phone call/hang up and that some actual names were bandied about between the squads.

One proposal went something along the lines of the left-handed hitting Jones and Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan going to the Mariners with potentially one other throw-in, in exchange for first baseman Justin Smoak, catcher John Jaso and starting pitcher Hector Noesi.

Again, I don’t know that this was the only set of names tossed about and you can be pretty certain that it wasn’t. But there it is.

This is exactly the type of under-the-radar move Zduriencik likes to make that takes everybody by surprise and leaves them wondering why they’d never had an inkling of it beforehand. Doesn’t mean the two teams will ever pull the trigger on it. But it does show you that there can be more than one type of trade beyond the premium guys that the Mariners could explore and theoretically use to get better.

Let’s look at the particulars of this proposed deal and why it fits within the realm of the possible.

First off, Jones would give the Mariners a guy who hit 27 home runs and slugged .516 with an .833 OPS in the majors last season and can potentially cover two positions of need for Seattle, albeit likely as a plattoon guy against mainly right-handed pitchers. He is 31, but under club control through the 2016 season.

Second, Hanrahan, 31, would give the Mariners a proven, more veteran back-end reliever as insurance in case Tom Wilhelmsen falters — and remember, Wilhelmsen has only been a closer less than one full season — as well as a needed set-up man from the right side. While the Mariners have youngsters Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps profiling as potential late-inning righties, they lack experience in the role and could be better suited rounding into the majors earlier on in games while Hanrahan handles the eighth or ninth for a year before he hits free agency.

Third, the Mariners can pull this move off without giving up any of their top-rated prospects, other than Smoak, of course, who is technically no longer a prospect despite his first-round pedigree and status as the prime return in the Cliff Lee deal.

Fourth, getting a slugging first base/right field type in a deal like this would cost the Mariners far less short and long-term than some other avenues they’ve explored and leave them financially able to pursue another bat via free agency. Let’s face it, bringing in Jones on his own would not be nearly as interesting as adding him and using the saved money to bring in a premium bat or another player he could share playing time with at two positions.

Why would the Pirates do it? Easy: for the salary relief.

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Comments | More in Winter meetings | Topics: Garrett Jones, John Jaso, Justin Smoak