Billy Beane Found His Catcher in Seattle: John Jaso is Ready to Lead the A’s Back to the Playoffs

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Sunday January 20th, 2013

A .372 OBP in 2010. A .394 OBP last season. Can you blame Billy Beane for LOVING John Jaso?

A .372 OBP in 2010. A .394 OBP last season. Can you blame Billy Beane for LOVING John Jaso?

Jonathan Hacohen  (Lead Baseball Columnist, Oakland A’s Correspondent and Website Founder):  

My name is Jonathan Hacohen. And I am a John Jaso fan. There…I have said it. Feels very good to get it out. Ok, so I don’t own any John Jaso t-shirts or jerseys. I wouldn’t recognize him if I hit him with my car. But when #27 (formerly #28 on the Rays) comes up to bat, I know that good things will usually happen. Remember that .372 OBP in 2010? I sure do. So do many Tampa Bay Rays fans. For you see my friends, John Jaso is a special breed of baseball player. He is a catcher with patience. He won’t hit for great pop, but he finds ways to get On Base. That is a skill that served him very well back in his aforementioned first full MLB season.

From that season on, I came to expect great things from Mr. Jaso. But then 2011 hit. Or actually, he didn’t. A .224 AVG with a .298 OBP was good enough for the Rays to dump Jaso on the Mariners for Josh Lueke. Remember him? Do I really have to say more? The Rays, for all the talk of their poor offensive showing and need for major league bats, decided that John Jaso just didn’t fit into their system. So Jaso was off to Seattle and Jose Molina was brought on board. The same Jose Molina who hit .223 last season with a .286 OBP. The same Jose Molina who got paid $1.5 Million last season. John Jaso on the other hand got paid $495,200 last year. What did he do? Only hit .276 with a .394 OBP. Plus a .456 SLG for good measure. His reward? A one-way ticket to Oakland with a 30 second stopover in Washington. The man can’t win. A good or bad season, either way MLB GM haven’t shown faith in this kid so far in his career. But then, most GMs are not Billy Beane. Despite being apparently set at the position for 2013, Beane proceeded to trade for Jaso and dump George Kottaras, to catch with Derek Norris. Beane said on record that he would have kept Kottaras unless Jaso was made available. So does Billy Beane know something that Andrew Friedman, Jack Zduriencik and Mike Rizzo don’t? The answer is yes. Beane knows which players he wants and usually, he will get them at the end. Now John Jaso is set to bring flair, leadership and of course, On Base skills to Oakland. The playoff picture just got much rosier for the A’s. 


How good was John Jaso in the 2nd half of last season? Try 7 home runs, .283 AVG and .418 OBP. His OBP every month starting June? .442 .422, .407 and .395. Incredible.

How good was John Jaso in the 2nd half of last season? Try 7 Home Runs, .283 AVG and .418 OBP. His OBP every month starting June? .442 .422, .407 and .395. Incredible.

At first glance, I will admit that I was a little surprised that Billy Beane did not nab John Jaso after the 2011 season. If there is one thing that Beane loves to do is buy low. But I can understand his logic somewhat. He had an entrenched catcher already in Kurt Suzuki, making a ton of money. Beane had just completed his big swap with the Nationals (you will see a trend here soon), moving Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals and getting back a nice return including Derek Norris and A.J. Cole. Remember that name as well. The A’s were not expected in the preseason last year to contend and many experts picked them to finish last in the A.L. West. With Suzuki looking to be unmovable and the A’s far away from contention, the movement was apparently to have Norris groomed to take over eventually while the team experienced more growing pains.

So with all that being said, John Jaso was likely not much on Beane’s mind. Or perhaps he just was in the wrong place in the wrong time and missed Andrew Friedman’s call. With only 1 solid year under his belt (2010), Jaso experienced the following year what many players endure. The dreaded sophomore slump. But for players with potential and hope, teams usually give them at least 1-2 years grace before writing them off. Not the Rays last year. I guess the Rays were just so fed up with Jaso’s poor season that they were willing trade him for a bag of baseballs. Or Josh Lueke, as the case was. Lueke, in case you were wondering, got into 3 games last season for the Rays. An 18.90 ERA was the result. Combine that with Molina’s abysmal numbers and Andrew Friedman starts to look a tad foolish in my opinion.

I can’t say for certain if Billy Beane had his eye on John Jaso for quite a while, or just lusted after him this year. After 2010, I can’t see how Beane would have ignored him. Likely, Jaso was on his radar on that point. Then after a poor follow-up season, Beane thought: show me more kid. Show me that you can rebound. If you do…you’re mine. Sure enough, Jaso had that rebound season. With more weight behind his game a better track record, Beane was ready to pull the trigger. After trading Suzuki to Washington (remember them) at the end of last season for truly a bag of baseballs (Minor Leaguer and salary dump), Beane had the young Norris, with potential and unproven track record, and Kottaras to man the A’s Catching position. When a  Catcher – with a near .400 OBP came up, Beane couldn’t resist. A Catcher that wouldn’t turn 30 until this coming September. A 6’2″ Catcher. Plus the fact that he is under team control until 2016 certainly helped as well.  

So Billy Beane does what he does best (if you watched Moneyball, you will appreciate this). Beane picked up the phone, likely called up every GM until he got his favorite transaction completed. The 3-Way Trade. Jaso became a member of the A’s. Michael Morse was on his way to Seattle. The Nats receive back A.J. Cole, together with another Minor League Pitcher, plus a player to be named later. So the Nats get one talented young arm and hope. The M’s get a power hitting First Baseman/Outfielder who is eligible for Free Agency at the end of this season. The A’s get a proven Catcher for at least 3 seasons. If all works out as I expect, this one should be another Billy Beane winner. 

This swap, as it went down, was really a case of baseball remorse- in addition to missed opportunities. Aside from Cole being a National previously, Morse was also a Mariner once upon a time. The M’s thought so highly of him that they traded him originally to Washington in 2009 for Ryan Langerhans. If you have followed Mr. Langerhans’ career, you will know that this was what you would call a baseball stinker. The M’s did well to steal Jaso from the Rays. And they turn around move him at his peak value for a guy that they traded far too early. And why? Because Jesus Montero is ready to be a full-time Catcher? Or perhaps Mike Zunino will be ready to take over in 2014. I am not really sure, but I do know this much. The Mariners will not be playoff contenders this year – and the addition of Morse for 1 season is not likely to have much of an impact on the team. For a squad with some of the best pitching talent in baseball, having a solid Catcher (like Jaso) behind the plate would have helped the team greatly. But I guess an OBP near .400 is not worth much in Jack Z’s world.

The Nats did alright in this one. They are happy with their Catching tandem of Suzuki and Wilson Ramos. With Adam LaRoche back and a crowded outfield, they certainly did not have a spot for Morse. So they made the move they thought they needed to. Move Morse and get back prospects, with one of them being highly touted. A.J. Cole is highly considered. But remember this. At the end of the day, he is a young Pitcher – and as we watched every week last year pitchers falling like flies to Tommy John surgeries, we learned that modern day pitchers carry a great deal of risk. They are unknown commodities that can implode at any time. Young pitchers, aside from being injury risks, also carry performance risks. We have no idea if Cole will be a #2 starter someday, a middle reliever or out of baseball. So that Nats at the end of the day were left with a high risk/ high reward proposition on their trade return. The M’s get some power into their lineup for a season. That leaves the A’s – with a dependable, reasonably priced ($1.8 Million) Catcher – who can take walks and get on base. If the measure of a trade is who got the best player, I have to give this one to Billy Beane.

I will leave you with this final thought. I have no idea why MLB GMs take Billy Beane’s calls anymore. If I was a GM and Beane called me, I would simply not pick up the phone. If Billy Beane called me, showing an interest in one of my players, I would hang onto that player for dear life. If Beane wants him for the A’s, then he would be good enough for my squad. Billy Beane is not performing his job in the hopes of making friends. He is looking to win ballgames, period. He may have waited 1 year too many to acquire John Jaso, but better late than never. Beane was able to significantly upgrade his roster without losing any of his core big league pieces. A.J. Cole is 21 years of age. He is  young and a pitcher. Beane may have bought high, but he also still sold high when he could. Minor League pitchers who fizzle out for a couple of seasons can lose their value in a hurry. The Nats could end up winning this swap, but we wouldn’t know for certain for at least 5 years. A lot can happen to big league squads in that kind of time period. Almost every strong playoff team needs a solid catcher behind the plate. To manage the pitchers and hopefully contribute some offense in the process. Billy Beane believes he has found that needed Catcher in John Jaso. I certainly hope that Jaso has comfortable walking shoes. He will be taking many strolls to First Base this season. The highly considered Oakland A’s as a result will be just that much more dangerous in 2013 as a result.

 

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(*The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com*)

Jonathan Hacohen is the Founder & Baseball Writer for the MLB Reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter 

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About Jonathan Hacohen

I practice daily yoga. Most foods are organic. If you catch me in the supermarket, it will be in the produce aisle. Warrior 1 Yoga was born from my wish to help people be healthy and happy. I preach the 4 key's to life: nutrition, exercise, water and sleep. This is my journey - I am hope to meet you along the way to share a similar path!

Posted on January 20, 2013, in MLB Player Profiles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Also a Jaso fan… I expect 2011 will prove to be the anomoly and 2010 and 2012 to be a more true representaion of what Jaso has to offer. Also, remember in 2011 he was injured and he never quite got back in the groove after that although a lot of that was probably Maddon’s fault for not allowing him the necessary continuous playing time to get his swing back when he came back from his injury. The fans and teammates love(d) him in Seattle. Seattle would have been much better off to keep Jaso and add Morse. They give up a lot of on base and RBI opportunities now. He keeps the game flowing. His RBI numbers would have been even higher if the Ms had better hitting in front and behind him. With Oakland’s better hitting Jaso’s ability to get on and bring runners around will pay off with runs.
    Oakland is a perfect fit for Jaso and you are right about BB being the only GM smart enough to evaluate and understand that. Maybe you didn’t say it exactly with those words but you said it nontheless….
    Also not sure I buy into some of the comments you see out there about his defense. I’ve watched him stop some REALLY BAD wild pitches that most catchers would not. And he’s smart… smart about situations, smart about getting on base, smart at calling pitches.. Read up on what Hernandez said after Jaso caught (and called) his perfect game.. What?? Only the 23rd perfect game in the history of baseball was caught and called by Jaso. King Felix only shook off 3 pitches called by Jaso in that game. He said he just let Jaso call it and he executed the pitches.

  2. I would still question Jaso’s catching skills. Below average at one of the most important positions on the diamond. Below avg. %CS. Makes his share of errors. Rather high rate of PB and WP when he’s playing.

    And when Felix is dealing, ANY catcher has the possibility of catching a perfecto.

    I like him as a hitter but he aint much as a backstop.

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