The Pittsburgh Pirates have agreed to sign left-handed swinging and versatile seven-year veteran John Jaso to a two-year contract, the club announced via Twitter.
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) December 23, 2015
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that Jaso is guaranteed $8 million over the course of his new contract. Joel Sherman of the New York Post confirmed that Jaso will make $4 million during both 2016 and 2017 with the Pirates.
Pirates’ GM Neil Huntington said in a press release announcing the signing (via MLB.com) that Jaso is “enthusiastic” to join the team.
“John Jaso is a proven Major League hitter who is a great complement to our existing lineup. John is enthusiastic about playing in Pittsburgh and developing as a first baseman. We feel he has the ability to play the position at the major league level while adding significantly to our offensive production.”
After designating Pedro Alvarez for assignment earlier this offseason, the Pirates left themselves a vacancy at first base. The left-handed swinging Jaso figures to play against right-handed pitching while right-handed swinging Mike Morse gets at-bats against left-handed pitching.
The recently acquired Jason Rodgers — who the Pirates received in exchange for two minor leaguers — figures to get some hacks at first base, too.
Jaso, 32, only has five innings of experience at first base, last appearing at the position in 2013. But his ability to handle right-handed pitchers and get on base is his calling card. Last season with the Tampa Bays Rays — his second stint with the team — Jaso hit.286 with five HR and 22 RBI in 70 games. He missed the first three months of 2015 after suffering an injury to his left wrist on Opening Day.
When he was healthy, Jaso lit up righties to a.285 clip as 172 of his 216 at-bats came against right-handed pitchers, per ESPN. He also got on base at.380 clip in 2015.
Initially coming up as a catcher, Jaso made his Major League debut in 2008 with the Rays, but only had 10 at-bats that year. After missing all of 2009, Jaso got his first extended look in 2010, batting.263 with five HR, 44 RBI and a.372 OBP in 109 games. After hitting just.224 in 89 games the following season, the Rays traded Jaso to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for pitcher Josh Leuke and a player to be named later.
In his lone season with the Mariners in 2012, Jaso enjoyed arguably his best offensive season. Jaso hit.276 with 10 HR and 50 RBI in 108 games for the Mariners. But he was traded once again in the offseason, this time as part of a three-team deal that netted the Mariners Jaso’s current teammate, Mike Morse (via MLB.com).
— CBS Sports MLB (@CBSSportsMLB) July 31, 2015
After a two-year stint with Oakland — primarily spent as a catcher, per FanGraphs — Jaso was traded a third time in his career after the 2014 season. The Mariners sent Jaso back to the team that originally drafted him, the Rays, along with Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell in exchange for Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar, per ESPN.
While Jaso is most familiar with the catcher’s position, his most recent look at the position was with the 2014 Athletics. In 2015 — when not playing as the DH — Jaso had an eight-game showcase as an outfielder. It was Jaso’s first time at a position other than catcher and first base.
MLB.com’s Adam Berry tweets that Jaso has told the Pirates he’s willing to be the team’s emergency catcher. However, concussion issues have required Jaso to spend time at other positions. His primary position in 2016 will be at first base with time in the outfield a possibility.
[Featured Image by Steven Ryan/Getty Images]