After weeks of very little baseball news, something finally happened last night. The A’s were a part of the three-team trade that sent Michael Morse from Washington to Seattle, John Jaso from Seattle to Oakland and three minor leaguers, A.J. Cole, Blake Treinen and a player to be named later from Oakland to Washington.
When news first broke I was a little confused by the trade from the Oakland side. Jaso is a fine, if underrated player, but he is essentially not that much different than George Kottaras who the A’s designated for assignment to make room for Jaso.
After letting the news sink in I can understand what the A’s did a little bit better but still think that perhaps the cost they paid in prospects was rather high for the upgrade between Kottaras and Jaso.
What the A’s got:
Jaso is an interesting hitter and one who seemed destined to become a member of the A’s with his ability to get on base at a very high clip. One of the things that make him a bit unique from the other high-OBP A’s is that he combines his high walk rate with a relatively low strikeout rate. For players with at least a 13% walk rate since 2008 (when he came into the league) he has the lowest strikeout rate by a fairly large margin at 12.2%.
This is in pretty stark comparison to Kottaras. Kottaras is Jaso’s equal when it comes to drawing walks, but he has a career strikeout rate that is nearly double that of Jaso. This is quite valuable in that the higher contact of Jaso allows him to put more balls into play where good things can happen without sacrificing plate discipline.
The area that Jaso is not quite the equal to Kottaras is in the power department. Before last season Jaso had never really shown much power, perhaps because his swing was designed more for contact instead of power (as seen in the relatively low strikeout rates). The relatively low power doesn’t stop Jaso from being a valuable player, but it does limit what to expect from him.
The other thing that needs mention is Jaso has very large platoon splits and should only face left-handed pitching in cases of extreme desperation. Luckily for the A’s they have a platoon mate ready for him in Derek Norris, so this shouldn’t become too much of an issue.
Overall Jaso is an improved version of Kottaras. He is a good hitter against right-handed pitchers, who will produce a ton of walks while not striking out a lot. He will hit for a fairly respectable batting average, but he shouldn’t be expected to produce much in terms of power. He is not a great defensive catcher but can be expected to do well enough that it isn’t a major liability for the A’s. In short, the A’s got a player that is under team control for three more seasons and should be expected to be at worst an average major leaguer (2 WAR) and at best perhaps one that could be a borderline All-Star (4 WAR).
What the A’s gave up:
Now that we have taken a look at what the A’s got it is prudent to take a look at what they had to give up.
The A’s will send a total of three minor leaguers to the Nationals. One can be considered a prospect, one is a fringe prospect with some upside, and one that will likely turn out to be a lottery ticket type guy in the player to be named later.
First up is Cole. According to Minor League Ball he is the A’s No. 3 prospect and was rated as a grade B prospect, which means that he has a good chance to enjoy a successful MLB career. Cole is a high upside player and is still fairly young, but had struggles in Advanced-A Ball last season and saw his stock fall. He was probably the highest upside arm in the A’s system, but he is still a long way from contributing at the Major League level.
Next up is Treinen, who is a bit older at 24 and was ranked in the honorable mention list just off the top 20 prospects by Minor League Ball. He spent all of last year in advanced-A, producing a 4.37 ERA and a 3.59 FIP. He posted decent strikeout rates and showed the ability to limit the amount of walks he gave up. The scouting reports indicate that he has a good fastball, a nice slider and a change up that was still a work in progress. His projected ceiling is that of a No. 3 or 4 starter or a potential power reliever.
In addition to the minor leaguers the A’s also had to designate Kottaras for assignment to make room on the roster for Jaso. Kottaras was a fairly valuable player last season for the A’s but became redundant with the addition of Jaso, who filled his exact role. Kottaras will most likely be picked up by another Major League team so I don’t imagine that the A’s will be able to keep him and stash him in Triple-A.
The A’s made their Major League team better; Jaso should represent an additional win and perhaps as many as two wins in talent over Kottaras. In the cutthroat AL West every win will matter with the A’s in competition with the Rangers and the Angels.
The A’s paid a pretty high price to get these wins but they did deal from a position of strength. In addition, they paid with guys that are still likely several years away from the Major Leagues, so while both pitchers are talented, like all prospects they carry significant risk that they will bust.
With the talent the A’s have on the team right now it makes sense for them to try to build for the short term to try to exploit the window that is open right now. Overall this trade makes the team better today without doing too much to weaken a strong farm system.