The A’s avoided arbitration with John Jaso, agreeing to a one-year contract with the catcher on Thursday. The deal is worth $2.3 million, according to a New York Post report.
That leaves them with six arbitration-eligible players still unsigned, and they’re all notable names – first baseman Brandon Moss, shortstop Jed Lowrie, closer Jim Johnson and setup man Luke Gregerson and outfielders Josh Reddick and Craig Gentry.
All of these players are under team control for the upcoming season, but there’s a deadline of sorts looming. At 10 a.m. (PT) Friday, teams will exchange salary figures with all unsigned arb-eligible players.
That is, the team reveals the salary it feels the player is worth, and the player’s representation presents its own proposed salary. The sides can continue negotiating on middle ground for a deal after this deadline, but teams often find it easier to hammer out an agreement before these figures are shared.
If no agreement is reached, the team and player go before an arbitration panel sometime in February, and the third party chooses one salary or the other for the player. Arbitration cases can get contentious, as a team is forced to argue against its own player being deserving of the higher salary.
Traditionally, the A’s have had success signing players early and avoiding arbitration cases. Don’t be surprised if they announce more agreements with some of the unsigned six before Friday’s 10 a.m. deadline.
Jaso, whose 2014 salary wasn’t immediately available, is an interesting player as the A’s look toward spring training next month. He missed the final two months of the 2013 regular season, plus the postseason, with after-effects from a concussion. He told the Bay Area News Group that he’s been completely cleared for all baseball activity, and manager Bob Melvin has said that Jaso is likely to get at-bats as Oakland’s designated hitter.
Does that mean he’ll be the everyday DH? Last season, the left-handed hitting Jaso drew all 55 of his starts against right-handed pitchers. Over his four-plus big league seasons, he’s a .272 hitter against righties and just .169 against lefties. Expect a right-handed hitter – Gentry is one option – to get some time at DH against lefties.
As things stand, Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt appear set as a two-man platoon at catcher, which is how they ended last season. But if Jaso is completely healthy, could he beat out Vogt (who also hits left-handed) and share the catching job with Norris?
The answers should come as the Cactus League season unfolds.