In what was the first noteworthy move of the offseason, the Seattle Mariners made a trade to acquire something everyone knew they needed help at—the catcher position.
On Sunday evening, it was announced that the Mariners had traded relief pitcher Josh Lueke and a player to be named later to the Tampa Bay Rays for catcher John Jaso.
I'm going to launch right into this by saying that the Mariners made a solid move, immediately addressing a positional need with veteran catcher Miguel Olivo wearing down at the end of 2011. Jaso is a 28-year-old lefty-hitting catcher who started on Opening Day for the Rays.
In 89 games and 246 at-bats in 2011, Jaso hit for a .224 average with five home runs and 27 RBI, but was sidelined with an oblique strain for 33 games. In 2010, he helped the Rays to a postseason run, playing in 109 games, in which he hit five home runs, 44 RBI and a .263 average as a rookie.
Looking at those stats, Jaso is a pretty average catcher who won't hit for much power, but where the Mariners are getting an upgrade is with patience at the plate. I know I'm not the only one pulling my hair out watching Olivo swing wildly and go weeks without a walk.
In his career, Jaso has drawn 84 walks to 77 strikeouts, a ratio supported by a .340 career OBP (On-Base Percentage). In fact, he might be almost too patient, with the third-lowest swing rate over the last couple of years. But when he does swing, he makes contact with almost 90 percent of the pitches.
Basically, Jaso is coming here to compliment Olivo, and we'll likely see a platoon behind the plate, hopefully a synergistic relationship. Jaso would start exclusively against righties and provide the patience and contact rate, while Olivo's swing-for-the-fences mentality and veteran presence is still something much needed with the ballclub.
Now, to look at what we gave up: essentially a marginal relief pitching prospect with little value to the organization. Josh Lueke was more of a distraction with his criminal history than a help, posting a 6.06 ERA in 32.2 innings.
It also won't pain the M's to replace him, with Chance Ruffin in the minors and Tom Wilhelmsen able to contribute at the Major League level.
Let's hope that the positive transactions continue throughout the offseason. Jack Z has his priorities straight, trading for a need without giving up valuable pieces.