Note: I haven’t been commenting much on the Seattle Seahawks so far this season. With the year ending injuries to key defensive stars Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, plus the problems with the offensive line and the running game, I have been, more or less, in “wait and see” mode as regards this […]Read the Rest →
Last week the Mariners in a 3 way deal traded catcher John Jaso to conference rival Oakland and in return got Washington Nationals outfielder Mike Morse. You may recall Morse. He came up to the Majors with the Mariners who then traded him to the Nationals in 2009. I remember seeing him at the “Safe” (Safeco Field) in a game in 2005 in which he hit a long home run. He seemed to me to have a good sense of himself at the plate.
On first hearing of the trade I did not like it. Though playing only part time last season Jaso led the Mariners in on base percentage and in batting average. He came up with a number of clutch hits, was a great pinch hitter and I loved his approach at the plate. He is just the kind of player Oakland GM Billy Beane goes for…a guy who gets on base. Then I went and checked out Morse’s stats with the Nationals. After doing that I did not feel so bad. Morse had a monster season in 2011 with 31 home runs and 95 RBIs while hitting .303 with a .360 OBP. Last year he played through an injury most of the season and still hit .291 with 18 homers. Morse says he is healthy now and if so another 30 homer season could be in the offing. The Mariners could sure use that.
There is, however, another aspect to this trade which I think may be the real reason that Jackie Z (Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik) pulled the trigger on this deal. Jaso is a catcher. The Mariners also have a young player on their roster named Jesus Montero who is also a catcher and who has the potential to be a great right handed hitter. He showed signs of this last year at the ripe old age of 22. As good as Montero potentially can be though, he is not the catcher of the future for the Mariners. That title belongs to the Mariners’ first round draft pick in last season’s draft, catcher Mike Zunino, who won the Golden Spikes Award as the nation’s top amateur player in 2012 while leading the Florida Gators to the College World Series for the third season in a row. Zunino completed his college career at Florida and signed with the Mariners rapidly which allowed him to get some playing time in the Mariners farm system last season. He tore up opposing pitching in his stint with the Everett Aquasox hitting .373 with 10 homers and an outstanding .474 OBP in 110 at bats. He did nearly as well with the Mariners AA Jackson affiliate hitting .333 with 3 homers and a .386 OBP in 51 at bats. Zunino is also reportedly an excellent catcher who can handle pitchers.
Though he does not have much professional experience, it is very possible that Zunino is Major League ready now. Spring training will tell the tale. If he does not make the roster out of spring expect him to be called up by mid season with the Mariners bringing some other catcher in temporarily until Zunino is ready. But I have a feeling he will come north with the Mariners after spring training. With his power, average and high OBP Zunino will be a major upgrade for the Mariners at catcher and very likely a future star. Since the Mariners are not going to trade Montero, who is also a budding star, the only other option is trading Jaso, a move which paves the way for Mike Zunino to complete his fast track to the bigs and also provides some instant offense in the return of Mike Morse.
After thinking this Jaso for Morse trade all the way through…I kind of like it now.