Otto Greule Jr
Twitter's my second-favorite invention, after novocaine.
Here's how I found out about Wednesday's three-team deal that sent John Jaso to the A's, Mike Morse to the Mariners, and a couple of prospects to the Nationals:
This trade is brutal. Just brutal. Can't even pretend to rationalize it. Been a while since one of these.— Jeff Sullivan (@LookoutLanding) January 16, 2013
Well, that one didn't actually tell me who got traded. Just that it somehow involved the Mariners, and that Sullivan didn't like it. Soon, though, there was a link to USS Mariner, and I started narrowing things down ...
This is Bavasi-esque. This is an awful decision, trading a good player for an older, worse, more expensive, less healthy player with two fewer years of team control. This is what happens you focus intently on acquiring a type of thing — in this case, a "power bat" — and don’t understand the value of the assets you have. This is what happens when you have a manager who doesn’t know how to evaluate talent, and sees John Jaso as nothing more than a backup catcher.
In case you're late to the party, Bavasi-esque is just about the worst thing that someone like Dave Cameron can say about someone like Jack Zduriencik. But just how Bavasi-esque will this trade look, a few years from now?
Well, let's just recall Bavasi's greatest hits:
Those last two deals, both of which would cost the M's many games over the following seasons, were made within a month in a season (2006) in which the Mariners finished 78-84. It's hard for me to imagine that trading John Jaso will be nearly as bad as trading Adam Jones, Shin-Soo Choo, or Asdrubal Cabrera.
After all, while Jaso's a good-hitting catcher, a) he's rarely allowed to face left-handed pitching, b) he's 29 years old, and c) he's considered just a quasi-catcher. Remember, just last year the Rays -- not in the habit of giving away good baseball players -- essentially gave him to the Mariners, even though they didn't have any particularly viable catchers on their 40-man roster.
The counter-argument, of course, is that Jaso's been a major leaguer for three seasons and he's been really good in two of them. Thanks to the non-good season, Jaso's got an 115 OPS+ over those three seasons. Over those same three seasons, Morse -- just a year-and-a-half older than Jaso -- has a 132 OPS+.
This is just a guess, but I wonder if the cognoscenti's frustration is more emotional than practical. Getting Jaso was one of the few good things that management has done in a long while; last season, Jaso was one of the very few good hitters on the entire team. And the M's could have kept him for three more seasons, for relatively little cost. When you give up a guy like that, it hurts. Consider, too: Morse is under contract for just this year; next November, he'll probably become a free agent. So the M's essentially traded three seasons of John Jaso for one season of Mike Morse, which makes sense only if a) the deal makes your team better in the short term and b) you're really trying to contend.
The first of those is possible, and perhaps even plausible; the second is not. The Mariners are going to finish third or (more likely) fourth this season, and in nine months won't have anything at all to show for this trade, except for a bunch of words written by outraged bloggers. Oh, and maybe a new general manager. In the middle of June, 2008, Erik Bedard was 4-4 with a 4.14 ERA for the M's; worse, the M's were 24-45. On the other side of the continent, meanwhile, Adam Jones was playing in center field every day, and lefty George Sherrill -- he was one of the "others" who went to Baltimore for Bedard -- already had 22 saves.
None of that looked real good, and Bavasi got fired on the 16th of June.
Zduriencik doesn't have Bavasi's track record with trades, at least not yet. Oh, but he did trade Mike Morse for Ryan Langerhans in 2009 ... just before Morse broke through as a major-league power hitter. And of course he did invest a great deal of money in Chone Figgins. That ticking sound you hear? That's a clock. Ticking. On Jack Zduriencik's tenure as the Mariners' general manager. The Astros should keep the M's out of last place. But if Morse doesn't play well and the club don't make at least a little bit of noise, Zduriencik probably doesn't last the rest of the year. Nor should he.
Meanwhile, the Athletics now have themselves a catching platoon: Jaso from the left side, and Derek Norris from the right. If Norris's minor-league numbers reflect his real abilities, he should do quite nicely in this role. And the Nationals are picking up a couple of A's prospects, one of whom (A.J. Cole) the Nats traded to Oakland just a year ago. Yes, Mike Rizzo seems to have become permanently ensnared in Billy Beane's sticky multi-team-trade webbing. I know this guy's playing Zduriencik in Moneyball 2: The Awakening, but I still haven't pegged the Rizzo role.