The John Jaso Trade

By Jason Wojciechowski on January 23, 2013 at 9:24 PM

I have assorted and miscellaneous thoughts to share about last week's trade in which the A's acquired catcher (or "catcher") John Jaso.

First, "catcher" -- it's possible, though unlikely, that I've never actually seen Jaso behind the plate. It's a true fact that I've never personally evaluated his receiving and blocking skills, and it's an even truer fact that I wouldn't know the first thing about how to judge game-calling from the outside. As Mike Fast and Max Marchi and Bojan Koprivica and Dan Turkenkopf and probably others I'm forgetting have shown, catcher defense is massively important, easily worth enough runs to far overwhelm offensive contributions. Jaso is a good hitter, potentially a very good hitter, so he's got some room to not be a stellar defender and still contribute significantly to the team. Unfortunately, what I've heard is that he's not so much "not stellar" as he is "really not that good."

Second, platoons -- Billy Beane handed Bob Melvin a roster last year just chock full of platoon potential, with Seth Smith/Jonny Gomes all year, a partial season of George Kottaras/Derek Norris and Brandon Moss/Chris Carter, and even the sorta, sorta not platoon of Eric Sogard/Josh Donaldson for a brief period at third base. This year's roster before this trade had that possibility at catcher, but I'm not sure the A's would have put Norris in the short end of a platoon with Kottaras given a desire to maximize his development. Having Jaso on board potentially changes that calculus, though, because the new catcher is a much stronger hitter than the old, and you probably don't acquire Jaso, especially at the cost the team paid, to have him play 40 games as a backup. In a magical world where everyone is healthy every day and nobody is ever tired, I think a strict platoon of Jaso and Norris, much as you don't want to reduce Norris's chances of being a valuable everyday player, is too tempting to pass up.

Third, prospects -- the A's sent A.J. Cole back to Washington in the three-team deal, along with Blake Treinen (who, I'll be honest, I'd never heard of until the news of the deal came out) and a player to be named later. Cole is a highly rated prospect who struggled significantly with his hit rate in the California League last year before being demoted back to Low A. He's young, though, and he played the rest of the year extremely well in the Midwest League while being age-appropriate. Judging prospects this far away from the majors by statistics is even dicier than judging prospects by statistics at all, and judging a special case like Cole by statistics is dicier still. My sources are your sources are far as knowing how good Cole is, so I've got nothing to add on the actual merits of the question beyond the general admonitions of the previous sentence about maintaining a healthy distance from his Cal League ERA in deciding whether this was a good trade (though that ERA is information).