Mariners acquire catcher John Jaso from Rays

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Given the Rays’ struggles behind the plate last season, it didn’t seem all that likely that the team would be content to replace Kelly Shoppach with Jose Molina and call it a day. They went in another direction Sunday, trading incumbent John Jaso to the Mariners for reliever Josh Lueke and a player to be named or cash.

Jaso, 28, is known for his on-base skills, and he’ll provide a pretty stark contrast to Miguel Olivo when he’s in Seattle’s lineup next season, assuming he bounces back. Jaso hit .263/.372/.378 as a rookie in 2010 before slipping to .224/.298/.354 in 246 at-bats last season.

The Rays figure to go get a new starting catcher to replace Jaso, though they do have an internal option in Robinson Chirinos. Ramon Hernandez is still out there in free agency and would make a ton of sense for the club.

The Mariners figure to have Jaso and Olivo split time, though not in a straight platoon. While the left-handed-hitting Jaso should play against the majority of righties, Olivo will get some starts there, too.

In Lueke, the Rays get a power arm, but one the Mariners didn’t value very highly. Lueke was acquired from the Rangers in the Cliff Lee deal without Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik having known about his having pled no contest to a false imprisonment charge (after originally facing rape and sodomy charges) and having served jail time. Lueke throws 92-95 mph, but after he flopped in 32 2/3 innings for the Mariners last season, compiling a 6.06 ERA, it’s no surprise to see him go here. He has the potential to turn into a nice setup man or maybe even a closer for Tampa Bay.

Given that Jaso is always going to be a poor defensive catcher even if he does bounce back offensively, this looks like a win for Tampa Bay. Lueke could very well flame out, but he’s also a candidate to turn into a fine reliever, and the Rays needed to do better than Jaso for a starting catcher anyway.

Cubs won’t make Kyle Schwarber available in trade talks

Kyle Schwarber
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.

The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.

Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.

Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”