Allow me to paddle you through my stream of consciousness upon hearing of the Michael Morse/John Jaso/AJ Cole trade last week:
“Oh hey, the Nationals finally traded Morse.
“To Seattle? Huh. Wonder what the Nationals got for him?
“AJ Cole? Wait, wasn’t AJ Cole an Oakland prospect? One of the guys we got from the Nationals for Gio? Am I reading this wrong?
“Wait, a three-way trade? Oh, Billy, you sly dog. Who’d we get?
“Who’s John Jaso?”
First of all, my ignorance notwithstanding, let there be no doubt that John Jaso is a good player to have. Look at his numbers, if you will: he’s essentially Seth Smith, if Seth Smith could play middling-to-mediocre catcher, instead of middling-to-mediocre outfielder. That’s not an insignificant difference, by the way – if the last (I don’t know, eight years? Nine years? When did Ramon Hernandez leave? 2003? Okay, let’s say nine years) nine years have taught us nothing else, it’s that catchers, for the most part, just can’t hit. I’m generally content with a catcher who can just manage to avoid embarrassing himself at the plate, so when you can put an offensive asset, like Jaso, into a position that tends to be an offensive liability, you have arrived at a good place. So John Jaso = good guy to have around.
That said, just because Jaso is a good player doesn’t mean that this was a Good Trade, per se. In fact, we likely won’t know if this is a Good Trade for some time, once we see not only what Jaso contributes to the Oakland Athletics, but also what AJ Cole and the other prospects that went out in the trade contribute to the Washington Nationals and whatever other organizations they end up in down the road. We also can’t forget that the man Jaso replaced on the roster, George Kottaras, was just claimed off waivers by the Royals this week, meaning Oakland gave him away for nothing, meaning his lost value has to be factored into any analysis of the Jaso trade for Oakland.
In having said all of this, have I given the impression that I have some sort of insight into the objective quality of this trade? Good. Because that’s what I’m going for here. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction as a writer than creating the impression that I’m smarter than I actually am.
Because the truth is that I have absolutely no idea how this trade will look when it’s all said and done. Because Jaso is good, but then again everyone says that Cole has ace potential. Because Jaso may not be able to hit lefties, but then again Cole didn’t do so well in High A-ball last season. Because Jaso doesn’t have much of a defensive reputation, but we’ve already seen where five years of Kurt Suzuki’s stellar catcher defense got us. Because The Rock has the advantage in power, but you have to account for CM Punk’s superior striking ability. I don’t know guys, I just don’t know. The best guess I can give is that while we may end up regretting this trade somewhere down the line, we likely won’t be regretting it in 2013, and we probably won’t be regretting it in 2014 either.
But that’s okay, because I’m not sure that a traditional, value-based analysis is the proper reaction to this trade anyway. This trade told us more than that we got Player A for Player B – it told us that a fundamental shift has occurred in Oakland. Whereas the team’s modus operandi for some time now has been to ship out established players for prospects that may contribute to the team further on and further up, this time it was Oakland trading an uncertain future for a proven present. This trade means that this organization now interprets The Future to mean 2013, and not some indeterminate date down the line. The Future that we as A’s fans have been waiting for for years has finally arrived. We can hope for Now, instead of Later. Feels nice, doesn’t it?
(Postscript: For the purposes of this post in the short term, and your enjoyment of the 2013 season in the long term, it’s probably best if you ignore the fact that the last “win now” trade the A’s made was for Matt Holliday in 2009. It sort of taints the experience.)
(Postscript the 2nd: In the course of researching this post (subtext: Look! I do research for these things!), Baseball Reference told me that Oakland’s starting left fielder in 2007 was someone named “Stewart.” I spent about five minutes wondering who on earth that could possibly have been before giving up and clicking the link to find out that it was Shannon Stewart. Remember him? I didn’t. You could have told me that Dave Stewart was our starting left fielder in 2007 and I might have believed you.)