The Orioles are entering the offseason with a good amount of money, but also quite a few needs. With starting pitching, a first baseman, and multiple outfielders all on the shopping list, we're not going to see the team go out and get a top guy for each position. The team will need to get value from cheaper signings if they're going to field a contending team in 2016. One name who could fit the bill is John Jaso.
Jaso isn't a guy who's going to be exciting to the casual O's fan, but he has quietly been a pretty good hitter for years now. Last season he returned to the Tampa where he started his career, and did what he's always done: provide solid production against right-handed pitching. Jaso's 2015 season was shortened by injury, but he hit well when he was on the field, with a .286/.380/.459 line in 216 plate appearances. This was pretty much in line with what he's done in years prior - from 2012 to 2015 his wRC+ was 143, 121, 121, and 136, respectively, and in all of those seasons he was somewhere between 210 and 375 plate appearances. Jaso won't bring a lot of power - his career high in homers is only ten in that breakout 2012 season. What he will bring, though, is on-base percentage. His .380 OBP last year was higher than anyone who took a single plate appearance for the O's other than Jason Garcia (1.000!) and Mike Wright (1 for 2!), and his .361 career OBP is identical to the Orioles' best OBP in 2015, Chris Davis.
Jaso is predicted by most outlets to get a contract somewhere in the realm of only 2 years and $10 million total, because he does come with his share of negatives. First, he's been relatively injury-prone over the course of his career, including last season. It's worth noting that a lot of his 2015 production was after he returned from his wrist injury, so he should at least be healthy to start the 2016 season. Second, Jaso is strictly a platoon bat against right-handed pitching. Of his 216 plate appearances last season, only 13 were against lefties. That's for good reason, because he really hasn't been able to hit lefties at all - he's batted .178/.309/.232 in his limited appearances against southpaws in his career, versus .274/.368/.429 against right-handers.
The platoon issue could create some lineup problems for Buck, but he makes up for some of that a little bit of versatility in the field. Jaso is mostly a DH at this point, but he's capable of playing multiple positions. He started his career as a catcher and played the vast majority of his games there until 2015. By most measures he's solidly below average behind the plate, but having a guy who can catch in a pinch can't hurt. Last year he played some outfield for the Rays for the first time in his MLB career. We don't have much data to go on, but it's probably fair to guess he's below average there too. Still, though, it's nice to have someone who can play multiple positions in a pinch. He's not going to win a Gold Glove, but at least he's not a strictly DH-only player. We didn't think we'd see Steve Pearce as second base last year, so you never know what might happen that could lead the O's to need to plug someone like Jaso in a spot we didn't expect.
Speaking of which, is there a better cheap option available to complement a guy like Jaso than Steve Pearce? He fills the opposite side of that platoon, and he's versatile in the field. If the Orioles went out and signed both Pearce and Jaso, they'd essentially be creating an above-average full-time bat in the lineup for probably around $10 million a year, and one that could be moved around the field depending on the team's needs.
Signing John Jaso is not going to make the Orioless a World Series favorite or get the team's phone lines ringing off the hook for season ticket sales. But the team isn't going to go out and bring in David Price, Alex Gordon, and Chris Davis either. The O's need to make a big move or two, but they also need to make some smart, smaller moves to compliment them. The Orioles could do a lot worse than adding a good bat like John Jaso to their lineup.