I’ll give Jack Zduriencik this much: he certainly knows how to pull off a surprise.
Today, the Mariners announced a three-way trade with the Oakland Athletics and Washington Nationals. John Jaso went to Oakland, A.J. Cole, Blake Treinen, and a PTBNL went to Washington, and Mike Morse went to Seattle.
It’s a move that, according to Twitter, left many fans scratching their heads.
In 2012, Jaso held a backup catching role, splitting time behind the plate with Miguel Olivo and Jesus Montero, and coming in as a left-handed pinch-hitter during late innings and extra-inning games. Offensively, he was the hottest lefty on the team, batting .276/.394/.456 in 108 games and 361 PA, with a .372 wOBA, 15.5% walk rate and 3.3 bWAR.
Mike Morse is a familiar name to Seattle fans. The Mariners saw him through the first four years of his career, from his MLB debut in 2005 to an injury-riddled 2008. In just 107 games and 337 PA, he batted .300/.365/.397 for a -0.2 bWAR. His batting average and playing time increased considerably after his departure, peaking at .303 in 2011 and dipping to a comfortable .291/.321/.470 over 430 PA in 2012.
While Morse has experience at first base (123 career games) and left/right field (247 career games), he will be fighting for a position that is over-saturated with candidates: Kendrys Morales, Mike Carp, and Justin Smoak at first, and Casper Wells, Michael Saunders, Eric Thames, Franklin Gutierrez, Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, and Carlos Peguero in the outfield.
Where does this leave the Mariners’ catching situation? Miguel Olivo is gone. Montero is on the 40-man, but will not be expected to catch 162 games next year. Mike Zunino is promising, but as of yet unproven—and the Mariners seem to be in no rush to hurry him through the next level of minor league development. From Greg Johns’ trade report:
“We’re going to be shopping,” Zduriencik said. “We have our list; we’ve already talked to people this afternoon. We like our catching in the organization. We’ve got some good young kids right on the horizon. But for immediate needs, we’ll definitely be shopping.”
In a nutshell, this trade sees a poor defensive catcher with decent offensive production swapped for a poor defensive outfielder with decent offensive production. It leans in Oakland’s favor (and, for that matter, Washington’s), but bear in mind that Jack isn’t quite finished with the Mariners’ 2013 roster yet.