January is just the worst. Really, February is the worst, but my birthday is in February, so I'm biased. January gets the dubious distinction in my book.
One reason why January sucks is that it is the deadest period of baseball's offseason. The previous season's awards have been given out, the Hall of Fame debates have come and gone, and Jeffrey Loria has already traded all of his veterans. But then sometimes, when you least expect it, you hit the jackpot and your team does something exciting smack in the middle of the worst, most boring month since Smarch. Oakland fans hit that proverbial jackpot yesterday, when the team acquired a starting catcher, John Jaso, without giving up any players from their Major League roster.
You may or may not like the trade. Oakland did part with a high-ceiling prospect (pitcher A.J. Cole), but one which is still very far from reaching the Majors. When I was reading through the comments from Baseballgirl's post, I thought that "iglew" put it best: "I think one's opinion on this trade for the A's mostly comes down to one's opinion of A.J. Cole." If you loved Cole as a prospect, then you probably hate this trade. If you'd soured on him after 2012, or just generally lean toward the TINSTAAPP principle, then you're probably more excited about the upgrade to the MLB roster. I'm not here to convince you one way or the other.
Regardless of your feelings on the trade, there is one thing that will definitely happen: John Jaso will be Oakland's starting catcher on Opening Day in 2013. You probably don't know very much about Jaso, but he's on your favorite team now. Let's run through the Pro's and Con's.
Pro: Jaso is an upgrade over George Kottaras. Oakland DFA'd Kottaras to make room for Jaso, so it is natural to compare the two players. Kottaras has a bit more power, but that's the only advantage he has in this comparison. He is an average hitter at best. Jaso has outstanding plate discipline, solid gap power, and makes a ton of contact; his 144 OPS+ in 2012 is an eye-opener. Jaso is by far the better hitter. They are both pretty poor defensively, so there's not much of a drop-off there, if any. If you must put numbers on it, Fangraphs gave Jaso a 1.5-win edge in 2012, and Baseball-Reference preferred him by 2.6 wins.
Con: Jaso can't hit left-handed pitchers. He bats lefty, and his splits are pretty wild. Lookout Landing suggests that his platoon splits might be partly a sample size issue, but one way or the other he's probably going to be most effective against right-handers.
Pro: It doesn't matter if Jaso can hit lefties or not, because he'll be platooning with Derek Norris. Your catcher isn't going to play every day anyway, so a platoon makes a lot of sense behind the plate. Since most pitchers are right-handed, the left-handed hitter in the platoon will always get more playing time. Kottaras was the left-handed side in post-Suzuki 2012, so Jaso slides into that role next to Norris in 2013. Last year, Jaso hit .302/.419/.508 against righties, and Bob Melvin has so far proven adept at optimizing production using platoons. In the comments yesterday, "totoum" put it well: "It's great not having to wonder if the manager will use the players correctly."
Con: Jaso is a poor defender behind the plate. Yes, it was worth mentioning twice. Here is Lookout Landing's rundown of Jaso's defense from last offseason. He's bad, but he's not unplayable. He should be able to get the job done. He's just not going to stop the opponent's running game or get the pitchers any favors by framing the strike zone effectively.
Pro: When Oakland replaced Kurt Suzuki with Kottaras and Norris, the pitching staff didn't fall apart. Many A's fans, including myself, were worried when the A's dealt Suzuki last year. We feared what effect there might be on the pitching staff due to the loss of his excellent defense and pitch-calling; Kottaras wasn't great back there, and Norris was/is still developing. It didn't end up mattering. I mean, it probably made a small difference, but the pitching remained excellent because the pitchers remained excellent. The pitch-calling, and strike-zone-framing, and plate-blocking...they all make a difference, but it's on the margins. The pitchers are either good or they aren't.
Con: That was all I had. There's nothing else I don't like. I'll just say defense again, I guess.
Pro: A's fans are going to love this guy. First, he played last season with a beard that looked like this. Then, when he shaved it off today, he did it right. (Note: There is nothing more anti-Giants then shaving off a humongous beard.) Futhermore, his fiancee's Twitter account claims that she is "Floating through the world of baseball with my hippie fiance John Jaso." She probably isn't using the term "hippie" lightly, either, as he hails from Humboldt.
Con: Seriously, I've not nothing.
Pro: Dave Cameron says that Jaso "was born to be on Beane's team." One thing to note about Jaso's offensive game is that he almost never strikes out. That's a big deal on an A's team that led the universe in whiffing last year.
Pro: JOHN JASO USED TO HAVE PET HEDGEHOGS. You guys, this is serious right here. You don't understand. Hedgehogs are by far the best animal ever. One of the greatest days of my life was when I got to hold some hedgehogs in England. They are freaking adorable. You may think that kittens are cute, or puppies. That's just because you haven't witnessed the glory. Here is a Google Image search which will change your entire perception of what "awww" means. It is one of my lifelong dreams to one day own a hedgehog, and Jaso has done it. He's already moving from "player I like" to "favorite player on the team" at an alarming rate.
Con: Did you just hear me? I said HEDGEHOGS. Nothing else matters.
Pro: John Jaso is now my favorite Oakland Athletic. Unless it turns out that he sucks.
I don't know about you, but I'm convinced. You can be sad about losing a top prospect from an area of organizational depth, and that's your right. It's a very mature, forward-thinking stance. I'm proud of you. I'll be busy cheering on our new Humboldt hippie, hedgehog-loving, beard enthusiast, high-OBP, low-strikeout starting catcher. He will definitely be here in 2013, with the team officially in win-now mode, regardless of what happens with the pitching prospects in the future. And he will definitely be one of my favorites.
***EDIT: A few more Pro's have been pointed out in the comments. They include:
- As "OmahaHi" pointed out, Jaso was clutch for Seattle last year: 3 walk-off hits and a line of .378/.485/.622 in 100 plate appearances with RISP. His OPS was 400 points higher with RISP than with the bases empty; for his career, it's 200 points higher with RISP.
- More clutchiness: "closetasfan" notes that Jaso's WPA (Win Probability Added) ranked 7th in the AL (minimum 300 PA's). The 6 players ahead of him: Mike Trout, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Josh Willingham, Edwin Encarnacion, Yoenis Cespedes.
- As "5thStarter" (an Angels fan) pointed out, Jaso destroyed the slegnA last year: .300/.426/.540 in 61 PA's with 3 homers and an 11:7 K:BB.
- "DubsDominate" mentioned that Jaso is under contract for 3 more seasons, through 2015 (eligible for arbitration each year).