At some point in the next couple of weeks, the Rays will go back to their normal allotment of two catchers. And based on Joe Maddon’s recent comments, those two catchers will be John Jaso and Kelly Shoppach. Defensively the Rays may sacrifice a little, but that pales in comparison to what they gain from the bats.
But there is a problem with a Jaso-Shoppach platoon. On days that a lefty opposes the Rays, JoeMa will be without one of his best bats, as Jaso won’t be available, even in late-inning pinch-hit situations. Typically, the back-up catcher is unavailable to pinch-hit in case the starting catcher is injured.
But there is a way to remedy this situation: Teach Jaso to play right field. If Jaso could handle a couple of innings in right field, Maddon could go to Jaso as a pinch-hitter, have him replace Gabe Kapler in right field, and in turn Jaso would still be available to catch should the need arise.
In theory, a move to the outfield should be easy for a catcher, but it is not automatic. While his arm should be strong enough, the throwing motion is different. And there are examples of failed attempts (e.g. Todd Hundley). Still, if it means having Jaso’s bat available late in games to pinch-hit for somebody like Kapler against a tough righty, it is worth trying.
Jaso has turned into an offensive weapon. But how great is a weapon if the manager can’t even take it out of the holster once every three games?