Rays Acquire Jaso, Prospects for Zobrist, Escobar; Sign Francisco
A recap of what the Rays gained yesterday.
Traded Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to the Athletics for John Jaso, Daniel Robertson, Herschel “Boog” Powell, and cash considerations (reportedly $1.5 million).
Jaso is obviously familiar to Tampa Bay, having been drafted and developed by the organization. Since leaving three winters ago, he’s developed into a more well-rounded hitter, one who taps into his raw power at a greater frequency. Jaso remains disciplined in his approach (although he did swing more often last season than usual), and ought to contribute across the triple-slash categories versus right-handed pitchers. Where he plays is less clear. Concussions have ended each of his past two seasons, and for his health’s sake you hope he’s done behind the plate. The Rays will probably slot Jaso in at DH anyway, seeing as how he’s a poor fielder. Jaso will qualify for free agency at season’s end, so it’s possible the reunion doesn’t last long.
Robertson is the better of the prospects acquired. He’s reputed as a hard-nosed player whose future is at one of the middle-infield spots. Which one will be determined by Robertson’s ability to pick up on the nuances and actions of the shortstop position, as he has an adequate arm and good enough hands to stick on the left side. Either way, Robertson should offer most of his value at the plate, where he’s got the potential to hit for average, get on base, and provide some pop. There’s much to like here, and Robertson should develop into a starting-caliber player.
Powell, who was popped for amphetamines last season, is another potential big-league contributor. He’s a slap-hitter type whose best tool is his above-average-or-better speed. It’s possible Powell stays in center field, though he’s looking at a career in left if he doesn’t due to a lacking arm. Consider it an acceptable outcome if Powell develops into an extra outfielder.
Whether you like the return or not, you do have to credit the Rays for their planning leading up to the trade. By signing Asdrubal Cabrera using Zobrist’s now-freed money, the Rays were able to include Escobar in a trade without totally decimating the middle-infield situation. Additionally, the money saved (and gained) through this swap figures to be used to add another mid-level free-agent type, whom should help in 2015 while giving the Rays another potential trade chit (to go with Cabrera and Jaso) if things go left before the deadline. Presuming that re-signing Zobrist wasn’t a serious consideration then, when compared to the alternatives—keeping Zobrist until July, or letting him walk at season’s end for a draft pick—the Rays probably came out ahead, even if it doesn’t feel like it.
Signed Juan Francisco to a minor-league deal.
Francisco is one of the most entertaining, albeit highly flawed players in the game. He’s a below-average third baseman, yet that almost doesn’t matter because nobody signs him for his glove; they sign him for his bat. Francisco embraces a free-swinging mentality at the plate that, when paired with a long swing, has resulted in a career 34.4 percent strikeout rate. There’s a lot of power potential and production here, and it’s noteworthy that he’s been a nearly league-average hitter despite the strikeouts and struggles against left-handed pitching. Even if Francisco fails to mature into more than what he is—a cheap source of power—he could come in handy off the bench at some point during the season.