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Thoughts on the John Jaso deal

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates' signing of John Jaso to a cheap two-year deal and subsequent outright of Jorge Rondon turned out to be two of the last moves made throughout the game before Christmas, at which point most front offices shut down for awhile. The Bucs probably won't do much else for a few days, and they might now be done acquiring position players.

If this is the Pirates' last significant position-player move of the offseason, it's underwhelming but helpful, in about the same way a lot of moves in the Bucs' previous three offseasons appeared to be at the time. Many of those worked even better than they looked at the time, obviously, and this one has a similar flavor. Clearly, Jaso can hit. He posts consistently good averages (even if he's likely to have a bit of BABIP regression next season), and his patience will make him a welcome addition to the Pirates' lineup -- his Steamer/600 projection of 64 walks ranks second among Pirates next season, behind only Andrew McCutchen. He's a career .178 hitter against lefties, but that's fine, since the Bucs have Michael Morse and Jason Rogers (and, later, Josh Bell) to minimize Jaso's exposure to them. Jaso should provide a consistent on-base threat against righties, and at a very reasonable price.

Of course, Jaso has spent most of his career behind the plate or at DH, which means that, for the second consecutive year, the Pirates are planning on giving the bulk of their plate appearances at first base to a guy who hasn't really played first base. Despite the Bucs' experience the first time around, this is less of a big deal than it seems to be, and less of a big deal than some fans will make of it. Pedro Alvarez's epic bed-crapping at first last year doesn't disprove the basic truth that most players can handle first base. In fact, I'm struggling to think of players who've failed as spectacularly at any new position as Alvarez did last year (although, to be fair, that might be partly because teams don't often allow wayward experiments to go on as long as the Alvarez mess did last year). Hanley Ramirez in the outfield last season comes to mind, but Alvarez-type situations are rare.

An Alvarez-type implosion seems rarer still when considering that Jaso was a catcher. As Jeff Sullivan pointed out in his analysis of the deal, the recent history of catchers making the transition to first has been a promising one -- Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, Jason Phillips, Scott Hatteberg and any number of others have had success with the move. The same is probably largely true of third basemen switching to first, so the Pirates are clearly taking on a bit of risk here, but the risk looks small.

On a dollars-to-production basis, Jaso is probably about as good as the Pirates could have done. There remain broader questions about the financial ramifications of their overall strategy -- it's no accident that the Pirates' current Jaso / Morse / Rogers / Bell / Jake Goebbert first base arrangement saves money versus what Alvarez and Morse would have cost, and the Pirates' decisions this offseason (in which they essentially swapped Neil Walker and Jon Niese's salaries and then cut costs in their rotation by dumping Charlie Morton and bringing in Ryan Vogelsong) demonstrate pretty clearly that they aren't planning to have a significant payroll next season. That continues to be a shame, and like Joshua, I'm confused by some of the moves that got the Pirates to this point. Whatever we might make of all that, though, the Jaso acquisition isn't the problem. Despite its low cost, it's a nifty little move that should make the Pirates a bit better.