Rays Ship Jaso To Seattle, Fortify Bullpen With Lueke

The Deal
Mimicking the recent Marlins-Padres deal, the Mariners and Rays hooked up for a catcher-for-young pitcher swap. Tampa Bay traded 28-year-old John Jaso, a lefty-hitting catcher who started three playoff games in 2010-11, to Seattle for righthanded reliever Josh Lueke, who made his big league debut in 2011, about a year after helping the Rangers fetch Cliff Lee in trade.

The Mariners also owe the Rays either a player to be named or cash in the deal. The identity of the PTBN may have to wait until after the Rule 5 draft because the player may be eligible for selection.

Jaso batted .263/.372/.378 in 404 plate appearances in 2010 to finish fifth in American League rookie of the year balloting. His OPS dropped nearly 100 points in his sophomore campaign of 2011, though he maintained a fine batting eye and managed a 25-to-36 walk-to-strikeout ratio. Jaso hits for little power, but he works his way on base enough (.379 on-base percentage through 2,550 minor league PAs) that Rays manager Joe Maddon occasionally batted him leadoff. As it stands, the Rays will turn over catcher to some combination of free agent import Jose Molina and Triple-A receivers Jose Lobaton and Robinson Chirinos. Jaso will share the position with righty-hitting Miguel Olivo in Seattle.

 
Rays Acquire
Josh Lueke, rhp
Age: 26.
Born: Dec. 5, 1984 in Covington, Ky.
Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 235. Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: Northern Kentucky.
Career Transactions: Selected by Rangers in 16th round of 2007 draft; signed June 11, 2007 … Traded by Rangers with 1B Justin Smoak, RHP Blake Beavan and 2B Matt Lawson to Mariners for LHP Cliff Lee, RHP Mark Lowe and cash, July 9, 2010.

Club (League) Class W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Tacoma (PCL) AAA 2 4 2.76 30 0 11 42.1 34 17 13 1 12 35 1.09
Seattle (AL) MLB 1 1 6.06 25 0 0 32.2 34 22 22 2 13 29 1.44

The Mariners acquired Lueke along with Justin Smoak and Blake Beavan when they dealt Cliff Lee to the Rangers in July 2010. In 42 appearances for Triple-A Tacoma, Lueke struck out 53 and walked 17 in 59 2/3 innings. In 2011 he ranked among the Pacific Coast League elite (min. 40 innings) in terms of both WHIP (1.09) and home runs allowed per nine innings (0.21). Lueke throws bullets at 94-98 mph and backs up his fastball with a quality splitter and slider that both sit in the 78-82 range. He’s got the arsenal to retire both righties and lefties and could ascend quickly to a set-up or, possibly, closing role. Lueke made the Mariners’ Opening Day roster in 2011 but allowed 12 runs in eight appearances to earn a demotion to Triple-A. He returned to Seattle on July 22 and pitched much more effectively for the balance of the season—3.42 ERA, 21-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 26 1/3 innings with 22 hits allowed.

 
Mariners Acquire
John Jaso, c
Age: 28. Bats: L. Remaining Commitment: Under club control for 2012-15 seasons ($427,200 salary in 2011).
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Club (League) YEAR AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG
Tampa Bay (AL) 2011 .224 89 246 26 55 15 1 5 27 25 36 1 .298 .354
2-Year Totals .246 198 585 83 144 33 4 10 71 84 75 5 .342 .368

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