West Coast Bias author Brett Miller (who is also the host of West Coast Bias on Air) and I both are not the biggest fan of the decision to trade John Jaso for Mike Morse. We got together and decided that we would have an email discussion about this trade. The following post is a result of that email discussion.
Me: I think that Steven Gomez hit this story pretty much right on the head with his post on West Coast Bias. That being said, why get a rid of a fan favorite? After all he is one of the reasons people kept coming to the ball park. This trade really doesn’t make since if the M’s were trying to compete this season, so clearly they aren’t. But why though?
Brett M.: Well, studies have shown that “fan favorites” don’t really bring fans to the ballpark. Even Felix’s starts don’t have a noticeable difference in attendance for the Mariners. What brings fans in and keeps them coming, quite simply, is wins. Of course, there are exceptions, like Tampa Bay. Nobody shows up there, but that’s an anomaly. To increase attendance, the Mariners simply need to win. They need to get better.
Trading John Jaso for Mike Morse doesn’t do that. As I noted here, Jaso is pretty much better than Mike Morse at everything except hitting home runs. Yeah, the Mariners haven’t hit for really any power over the past few years, but that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the Mariners didn’t have enough good players. This move does nothing to help them accomplish that. It was unlikely that the Mariners expected to compete this year, and this doesn’t help.
To answer your question, “why?”, I think it’s because of all the incessant complaining about how they don’t have enough power, and I think Zduriencik actually agrees with them. Sure, a few more home runs might have fans coming out to the park early in the season, but if they don’t win, those fans won’t come back just to see a dinger. I’ve been a big defender of Zduriencik over the years, and this doesn’t make me think he should be fired or anything. He’s excellent at building a farm system, and that can’t be ignored. He does have blind spots, though, like team chemistry, and an insane over-emphasis on catcher defense. This move simply reinforces what previous moves at the major league level have shown: he just has a hard time evaluating major league talent.
Me: A few things; I agree with your point that Z has a tough time evaluating major league talent. That being said, for some reason (historically speaking) fans in Seattle like home runs. After the Division Title in 1997, the team struggled to win. Despite the 76-85 finish, the M’s averaged 32,938 fans per game; they also clubbed 234 home runs. In 1999 the team again finished with sub .500 record and still drew 35,999 people a game. That year, the M’s clubbed 244 home runs.
Now what does all of that mean? It certainly shows that if the product on the field is entertaining, the average fan will be more inclined to go spend the afternoon/evening/night at the ball park. The recent product on the field has been down right un-watchable the last few seasons, and as a result attendance has plummeted. So if this team is hitting home runs and the product is watchable/enjoyable, attendance probably increases; and Z probably gets a three to four-year extension to see if he can pull together his master plan.
That being said, this trade just strikes me as wrong on so many levels. After all Morse put up a .339 BABIP in a much more friendly hitter park than Safeco last season. Meanwhile Jaso (who played at Safeco) put up an impressive .298 BABIP. Not only that but Jaso put up a 2.7 WAR as a part-time catcher. A PART TIME CATCHER FOR CHRIST SAKE. As a full-time out fielder, Morse had a horrible 0.3 WAR. Oh and there is the fact that Morse’s contract is up at the end of this year; Jaso has two more years of club control.
The only way this trade makes sense is that Upton vetoing a trade to the Mariners practically killed any chance of competing for next season. So what Jack Z has decided is that he needs to put butts in the seats with dingers, and that Jaso was expendable because of the fact that the team would be competitive by the time Zunino shows up in the big leagues.
Stay tuned for part two, over on West Coast Bias!