Mariners make smart move to get Jaso

It's the kind of small move that flies under the radar this time of the offseason, but the John Jaso-Josh Lueke deal is the kind of trade that can work out for Seattle and Tampa.

Jaso made a splash as a rookie in 2010, posting a .372 OBP and becoming one of the rare catchers in baseball history to spend regular time as a leadoff batter (he led off in 45 games). He fell off to a .298 OBP in 2011, but as Dave Cameron pointed out on the USS Mariner site, much of that may be attributable to a poor batting average on balls in play that suggests Jaso is a strong rebound candidate.

Anything that takes away plate appearances from outmaker Miguel Olivo is a good thing. Olivo's occasional bursts of power mask is overall offensive ineptitude -- his .253 OBP was the second-worst of any major league regular in 2011, ahead of only Vernon Wells. If Jaso can find a medium between 2010 and 2011, he's a huge upgrade for the Mariners.

But Tampa did well in picking up a power arm in Lueke. Ignore the 6.06 ERA he posted in 32 innings as a rookie with Seattle. Focus instead on the 29/13 strikeout/walk ratio and two home runs allowed. His fastball averaged 93.6 mph and he mixes in a splitter to induce ground balls. He's the kind of arm the Rays love to pick up, and he has the potential to be a key part of their 2012 bullpen.

If there's a red flag with Lueke, it's that he's still trying to escape a troubled past. In 2009 while in Class A ball with the Rangers, he was arrested on charges of rape and sodomy, pleaded no contest to false imprisonment with violence and spent 42 days in jail. Acquired by Seattle in the Cliff Lee trade, he became a controversial target when Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik originally claimed he was unaware of Lueke's background. There were calls from Mariners fans to release Lueke, and the Rangers suggested they'd exchange Lueke for another player.

That didn't happen, but Lueke carried the cloud with him when he reached the majors. With less controversy around him following this trade, the focus will now be on whether he can get out major league hitters.