Editorial: With the lack of any significant offseason transactions by the Pirates thus far, we’re going to take a look at some offseason acquisitions from past seasons. Today we’re gonna take a look at one of last year’s more significant additions, John Jaso:
Pre Pittsburgh Pirates Career
Prior to the Pittsburgh Pirates signing him as a free agent last year, John Jaso had spent his entire career in the AL as a Catcher. Drafted by the Rays in 2003, Jaso made his MLB debut with them in 2008. He would bounce between AAA and the Majors over the next few seasons before being traded to Seattle Mariners. He only spent the 2012 season in Seattle, but it turned out to be his best season statistically. That season he also had the distinction of being the Catcher for Felix Hernandez’s perfect game on August 15th. During the ensuing off-season, he was traded to Oakland before working his way back to Tampa Bay after two seasons.
After the 2015 season, Jaso was eligible for Free Agency for the first time, signing with the Pirates. He was brought in to serve as the left-handed hitter. Specifically, he was to be part of a first base platoon despite playing sparsely there up to that point. Jaso was also brought in to bat leadoff when in the lineup. This was due to his high OBP against Right Handed Pitching, going .368 against righties for his career.
Jaso was a bit of a mixed bag for the Pirates in 2016. His fielding would be considered below average with a -2.3 UZR/150 and a -3 DRS at First Base. However, this was still an upgrade over the abominable fielding the Pirates had gotten from Pedro Alvarez. While his overall OBP did decrease from .380 in 2015 to .353, that figure represented a career high. Additionally, his OBP against RHP was only down marginally from what he had in 2015 and for his career (.361 in 2016 vs. .365 in 2015 and .367 for his career).
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However, Jaso fell victim to a significant midsummer slump slashing .197/.313/.296 in June and .200/.262/.250 in July. He also drew criticism for “lack of hustle” after staying in the batter’s box on a double play ball. Jaso did have one significant high moment, however, becoming the first player to hit for a cycle at PNC Park. He accomplished the feat on September 28th in an 8-4 win against the Chicago Cubs.
Future with Pirates
Jaso has one year left on the deal he signed last offseason and he has generally performed as expected. It’s unlikely he’ll ever be considered a “fan favorite” due to his relatively unremarkable stint thus far and the infamous “lack of hustle play” mentioned above. Additionally, I’ve gotten the impression that his dreadlocks have made him unpopular with some people. In any case, Jaso will probably play out the remaining year of his deal in much the same capacity he spent 2016, as part of a First Base platoon. It seems unlikely given his age (33) and the presence of Josh Bell that Jaso will receive another contract from the Pirates after this season.
*Stats courtesy of Fangraphs