Seattle Mariners acquire John Jaso

The Tampa Bay Rays traded catcher John Jaso to the Seattle Mariners for reliever Josh Lueke and a PTBN or cash. Most of us know Josh Lueke as the guy in the Cliff Lee trade, and as the man who was in jail for 42 days. The Rays believe that Lueke can be a solid contributor in their bullpen, and they aren’t as concerned as most regarding Lueke’s baggage and off-the-field history. The main player in this deal is obviously John Jaso, and he had a nice year in 2010 (.372 OBP). However, Jaso fell apart last year and hit just .224, but it is important to note that his BABIP was just .244. Lueke, on the other hand, had a 6.06 ERA in last season, but he did have a 3.24 FIP.

Jaso is one of the most patient hitters in baseball, and everybody remembers Joe Maddon’s seemingly crazy idea to hit him lead-off. The plan worked out well, as Jaso’s good eye led to a .372 OBP and a solid 116 wRC+. However, he was worth just 0.5 WAR last season, and his bat seemingly fell flat (82 wRC+). Jaso isn’t a guy with much power, and his career ISO of .119 shows this. But patience is key, and Jaso has walked more than he has struck out during his career. However, he did strikeout more than he walked in 2011, which is a cause for some concern.

Some players have a drop in BABIP due to a decrease in line-drive rate or an increased in pop outs. This wasn’t the case with Jaso last season, as his line-drive rate was right in line with what he posted in 2010. He also hit less infield flies, and his other batted ball stats were about the same as in 2010. A sudden decrease from a .282 BABIP to a .244 BABIP is usually caused by a stark decrease in batted balls stats or in luck, and we can definitely say that the latter is the case for Jaso.

Josh Lueke received his first year of Major League action in 2011, but the results weren’t pretty. Although he struck out about eight hitters per nine, he walked 3.58 hitters per nine as well. The latter isn’t surprising, because the scouting reports say that Lueke is a guy who struggles mightily with his command.

Looking at the splits and Heat Maps, it’s easy to see why Lueke is better against lefties. Although the right-handed pitcher walks far more left-handed hitters, he strikes out more lefties and has a lower FIP (2.71 to 3.75). Granted, this is all small sample-size, but he leaves his fastball in the middle of the plate too much against righties. He keeps the ball on the outer-half of the plate against left-handed hitters, but he doesn’t generate enough strikes against them.

Lueke’s 6.06 ERA will surely go down, as his FIP was a solid 3.24 during his first 32 Major League innings. His BABIP-against was an unlucky .327, but his LOB% was an extremely unlucky 56.5% but his 5.7 HR/FB% helped him out. This is all small sample-size, but it is all we really have to evaluate him at this point.

It seems like Lueke can be a decent middle-reliever and has upside, and the Rays are optimistic about him being a key cog in their bullpen. There is a chance that he will end up being a serviceable set-up man down the road with his upside, but he’ll need to work on his control first.

Although John Jaso is a solid hitter because of his patience, he is a poor defensive player who can’t gun down baserunners very well. He makes up for some of this by working well with his pitching staff, but that doesn’t make up for his inability to control baserunners. He isn’t the worst defensive catcher out there by any means, but Jaso definitely leaves much to be desired in this part of the game.

I expect the Mariners new backup catcher to get on base at  .350 clip, albeit with little power and he should have a wRC+ between 105 and 110. Jaso will most likely platoon with Miguel Olivo and spell the overworked starter, and Jaso is a 2-2.5 WAR player over an entire season as a starter. The Mariners got the better end of the deal, because Lueke isn’t a consistent enough player and just isn’t as talented as Jaso. I mean, a catcher who can post an OBP of .350 is a rare find. The Rays didn’t exactly strikeout on this deal either, because Lueke should end up being a nice arm out of the ‘pen. I would rather have a solid offensive catcher than a reliever with upside, and there is also a chance of Jaso beating out Olivo (Bill James projected wOBA of .289 compared to Jaso’s .324) for the starting job.

Wikimedia Commons-inazakira on Flickr cropped by UCinternational

 

Topics: John Jaso, Josh Lueke, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays

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  • http://twitter.com/wilymotown wilymo

    lueke was definitely a tale-of-two-stints guy last year. april in the majors he was just off, velocity was down, something about his delivery was screwed up or he was overthinking it. then he went to the minors for most of the year and came back and his velo was back and he did better. still not superlative, but you know, rookies. saw the pitching coach or somebody quoted saying he was getting closer to formulating and executing a plan that worked in the majors.

    control hasn’t really been an issue for him in the minors, is the thing – BB% was over 9 in the majors but has been a rock-solid consistent 6-7% in the minors. you can say command in the zone but if he can actually get to throwing strikes at 95+ plus two breaking pitches maybe he doesn’t need command in the zone as much as some guys do.

    scouting i’ve seen on him is that his timing is a little funky, starts his body rotation before his arm’s up, but somehow throws strikes anyway.

    last year at this time he was kind of a trendy sleeper to sneak into saves in seattle, but then he crashed and burned and league took the ball and ran with it. but he does have that kind of stuff if he can settle down, and the rays are another good meritocracy type bullpen for that kind of guy to be in, it’s not like they’re gonna bring in some papelbon-type big money closer.

  • http://calltothepen.com/ SorianoJoe

    Dude, you nailed it with his poor April, I saw that while looking at his month-to-month splits. He seemed to get better as the season wore on after just an awful first month. I love how the Rays manage their bullpen, because they always seem to find the right mix of solid relievers to sustain good production out of the ‘pen. I don’t really like his command that much, but I’m not really a baseball scout- I’m better with football as far as scouting goes- so your scouting observations are probably more relevant. I see him as being one of those “cog” guys in the Rays bullpen, and he should be a quality arm out of the bullpen in Tampa. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a very insightful comment. I hope you check out more posts in the future; thanks again.

  • http://twitter.com/wilymotown wilymo

    lueke was definitely a tale-of-two-stints guy last year. april in the majors he was just off, velocity was down, something about his delivery was screwed up or he was overthinking it. then he went to the minors for most of the year and came back and his velo was back and he did better. still not superlative, but you know, rookies. saw the pitching coach or somebody quoted saying he was getting closer to formulating and executing a plan that worked in the majors.

    control hasn’t really been an issue for him in the minors, is the thing – BB% was over 9 in the majors but has been a rock-solid consistent 6-7% in the minors. you can say command in the zone but if he can actually get to throwing strikes at 95+ plus two breaking pitches maybe he doesn’t need command in the zone as much as some guys do.

    scouting i’ve seen on him is that his timing is a little funky, starts his body rotation before his arm’s up, but somehow throws strikes anyway.

    last year at this time he was kind of a trendy sleeper to sneak into saves in seattle, but then he crashed and burned and league took the ball and ran with it. but he does have that kind of stuff if he can settle down, and the rays are another good meritocracy type bullpen for that kind of guy to be in, it’s not like they’re gonna bring in some papelbon-type big money closer.

  • http://calltothepen.com/ SorianoJoe

    Dude, you nailed it with his poor April, I saw that while looking at his month-to-month splits. He seemed to get better as the season wore on after just an awful first month. I love how the Rays manage their bullpen, because they always seem to find the right mix of solid relievers to sustain good production out of the ‘pen. I don’t really like his command that much, but I’m not really a baseball scout- I’m better with football as far as scouting goes- so your scouting observations are probably more relevant. I see him as being one of those “cog” guys in the Rays bullpen, and he should be a quality arm out of the bullpen in Tampa. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a very insightful comment. I hope you check out more posts in the future; thanks again.

  • http://twitter.com/wilymotown wilymo

    haha i don’t know anything about scouting either. but i have a good BS detector when i’m reading other people’s scouting, and that goes a surprisingly long way. also i’m in a crazy deep fantasy league and whenever i own a guy i tend to google him semi-obsessively and i own lueke, sooooo

  • http://twitter.com/wilymotown wilymo

    haha i don’t know anything about scouting either. but i have a good BS detector when i’m reading other people’s scouting, and that goes a surprisingly long way. also i’m in a crazy deep fantasy league and whenever i own a guy i tend to google him semi-obsessively and i own lueke, sooooo

  • jy006m

    “but his LOB% was an extremely lucky 56.5% ”

    huh? that is extremely UNLUCKY. It means a lot of guys who got on base scored.

  • http://calltothepen.com/ SorianoJoe

    Wow, that was a bad typo. Thanks for the catch, and I’ll be sure to change it.

  • jy006m

    “but his LOB% was an extremely lucky 56.5% ”

    huh? that is extremely UNLUCKY. It means a lot of guys who got on base scored.

  • http://calltothepen.com/ SorianoJoe

    Wow, that was a bad typo. Thanks for the catch, and I’ll be sure to change it.

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  • CJ13

    Good stuff. Tampa fan here. Jaso was well liked here. You’ve got a pretty disciplined hitter and a genuinely good guy in this trade. Jaso was well liked here. But the thing I can’t stop thinking about is that Andrew Friedman (and staff) VERY rarely come out on the short end of the stick on trades. Jaso is above average offensively, particularly for a catcher. But he is a horrible defensive catcher (I say that anecdotally, as a fan who watched every game). I think the Rays are probably looking at the +/- net runs created from this trade and others they’re planning. They signed Molina at nearly the same time they did this deal. GREAT defensive catcher, but little offense. They must see upside in pitching. Anyway, I wouldn’t bet against them on this one.

  • CJ13

    Good stuff. Tampa fan here. Jaso was well liked here. You’ve got a pretty disciplined hitter and a genuinely good guy in this trade. Jaso was well liked here. But the thing I can’t stop thinking about is that Andrew Friedman (and staff) VERY rarely come out on the short end of the stick on trades. Jaso is above average offensively, particularly for a catcher. But he is a horrible defensive catcher (I say that anecdotally, as a fan who watched every game). I think the Rays are probably looking at the +/- net runs created from this trade and others they’re planning. They signed Molina at nearly the same time they did this deal. GREAT defensive catcher, but little offense. They must see upside in pitching. Anyway, I wouldn’t bet against them on this one.

  • http://calltothepen.com/ SorianoJoe

    @CJ13 Thanks for the comment CJ, and I think the Rays believed that Molina’s added defensive value from pitch framing makes this trade more valuable for them. They were able to get bullpen help, and I think Lueke should end up being a solid arm out of the pen with his ability to strikeout hitters. The Rays decided that they would take the defensive upgrade and the bullpen help over a solid, patient hitter who can’t field. Thanks again for the Rays take on this move, and I love it when fans of other teams drop by with their analysis.

  • http://calltothepen.com/ SorianoJoe

    @CJ13 Thanks for the comment CJ, and I think the Rays believed that Molina’s added defensive value from pitch framing makes this trade more valuable for them. They were able to get bullpen help, and I think Lueke should end up being a solid arm out of the pen with his ability to strikeout hitters. The Rays decided that they would take the defensive upgrade and the bullpen help over a solid, patient hitter who can’t field. Thanks again for the Rays take on this move, and I love it when fans of other teams drop by with their analysis.

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