When the Pirates signed David Freese to a 2 yr/$11M extension (plus potential bonus incentives), I was pleasantly surprised. It was a move I advocated for back in July, but I didn’t think they’d actually…you know…do it.
With Freese on board, the Pirates now have four legitimate candidates to play 1B and/or 3B that are under contract or team control for 2017. In all reality, only three of them will be on the Opening Day roster. Here’s my rough percentages on who I see making the roster:
- David Freese, 99.5% — I’m leaving that final 0.5% off because trading Freese right after signing him to an extension would be the Pirate-iest thing ever. I would taste the salty tears off every Twitter, Facebook, and live-in-person comment made to me about the Pirates. The hate would be like rocket fuel to me. Seriously, though, he’s on the roster.
- Josh Bell, 82.4% — Bell can hit. There’s not much debate on that point, Senator. But…oooff…he’s awkward at 1B. I saw him in-person against Milwaukee and he looked like a guy who was sent out to play 1B for the first time ever. His body language was pretty much this movie clip brought to real life. It’s not like Bell is going to be re-converted back to RF, because the barn is full with much better players, with Austin Meadows on his way up. There’s a chance that Bell is dangled to an AL team in a package for a top-of-rotation pitcher, but at this time he’s probably the starting 1B.
- Jung-ho Kang, 67.4% — This has been a season to forget for the finest Korean import since the Kia Sorento. He’s been banged up with injuries all year and the specter of his legal issues with the sexual assault charge is clearly hanging over him. If something develops negatively from that, the Pirates may seek to terminate his contract. Even if he’s cleared, the Pirates may move him and his ultra-cheap deal ($2.75M in 2017, $3M in 2018, club option in 2019) if they need to include a Major League-ready piece in a deal for a pitcher.
- John Jaso, 17.8% — Here’s the crux of the article. If Bell is at 1B, Kang at 3B, and Freese backs up both, the bench doesn’t need a 1B-only guy. And no, once again for the cheap seats, Jaso can no longer catch. I suppose he could be the 4th OF, but realistically his $4M salary in 2017 has more trade value than Pirate value.
I know that Jaso has struggled mightily in the second half of the season, but most of that is just perception after his unrealistically great start to the season. There are teams that may need a stopgap 1B for a year throughout the Majors, especially just for $4M.
I’ve long considered the Royals to be the Pirates’ doppelganger in the American League. Next year, the Royals are facing somewhat of a payroll crunch, as they already have $99.6M of committed salaries, with their “first wave” of homegrown talent all getting expensive in their final years of team control through arbitration, as well. The Royals have a plethora of bad contracts, too, like Ian Kennedy’s $13.5M.
Their payroll was an all-time high of $131M this year and with all their arb guys, it will easily crest that if certain other player options are picked up. In short, they may need to make difficult decisions, like non-tendering the chronically underwhelming Eric Hosmer, due to make around $10-12M in arbitration. If they do that, they could move Mike Moustakas to 1B and go with Cheslor Cuthbert at 3B, but I could see a play for Jaso’s deal here.
I could kind of cut and paste the Royals writeup here, too. Mets have $95M of committed salaries and a whole raft of pricey arb guys like Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Jeurys Familia at the top of the list. 1B Lucas Duda is a probable non-tender due to his persistent back issues, so Jaso could be a good stopgap pickup.
The Mets have a 1B prospect in Dominic Smith who won’t hit enough in the Majors, but they’ll probably want to see that in person, so Jaso could hold the line for a year while he continues to develop.
The Phillies will be good very soon, but not in 2017, as they’ll continue to percolate prospects up and sift through young players. Tommy Joseph has provided power at 1B this year, but his on-base percentage is sub .300. As a right-handed batter, the lefty Jaso could provide a nice complement to him.
The young Phillies could also want a veteran presence in the clubhouse to help mentor the youth. I’m sure the Phillie faithful will love the dreads.
The Rays don’t have a typical 1B candidate under contract for 2017 and don’t have a viable prospect in the minors ready to ascend. Could it be old home week for Jaso and a reunion with the Rays?
Another one of Jaso’s old haunts. You never know with President of Baseball Ops Billy Beane and his protege, David Forst. They could non-tender the perennially disappointing Yonder Alonso and pick up Jaso, I suppose.
To me, it seems as if Jaso will be on the move during the Hot Stove season. Of more intrigue will be if he’s part of a larger package for a key piece or if he’s moved for a low-level prospect 1-for-1. Starting in November, commence the howls in 3, 2, 1….