Rays trade C Jaso to Seattle for reliever Lueke

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November

UPDATE, 9:01: Jaso, driving through the California mountains at the time, was caught off-guard by the news, expecting to come to spring training with a solid shot to be the front-line catcher: "Definitely surprised. ... It was a really big shock.''

UPDATE, 8:30: Lueke said he was 'a little surprised" to be traded but feels he is ready to compete for a big-league job and is excited about getting back to the east (he is from Ky.). As for the criminal issues, he said they are in the past and he is trying to move on. "Hopefully that eventually just goes away and people quit judging on what they're hearing and actually get to know me and they can make their own opinion,'' Lueke said on a conference call. The Mariners did not have any issues with Lueke during his time in their organization.

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik, in a press release, on Jaso: "John gives us a left-handed-hitting catcher with some big league time who is still young. His left-handed bat will be a nice compliment to our right-handed hitting group. He’s a tough kid with post-season experience and should be a nice fit with us.”

BREAKING: The Rays traded C John Jaso to Seattle on Sunday for RH reliever Josh Lueke and either a player to be named or cash.

Lueke, 26, served 40 days in prison after pleading no contest to a charge of false imprisonment with violence stemming from a May 2008 incident when he was a minor-leaguer with Texas. Rays exectuive vice president Andrew Friedman said the team had no concerns after extensive research.

"We researched the 2009 incident that Josh was involved in thoroughly and in great detail,'' Friedman said in a statment. "We’re satisfied that he is going to be the kind of person and teammate that we look for and we expect him to contribute positively to our group.”.

Jaso, 28, had a poor 2011 season, hitting .224 with 5 HRs, 27 RBIs and a .652 OPS, and threw out only 8 of 58 basestealers, for a 12.8 percent rate that was second worst of all qualifying catchers.

With the decision to not pick up Kelly Shoppach's option and now the trade of Jaso, the Rays will have a different look behind the plate. The signing of veteran free agent Jose Molina is expected to be official as soon as Monday, and the in-house leaders to share the position are now Jose Lobaton and Robinson Chirinos.

Lueke, who turns 27 in December, is a hard thrower who had some success in the second half of last season with Seattle. He made the opening day roster but struggled over eight appearances and was sent to Triple-A. He returned in July, and compiled a 3.42 ERA over 17 appearances, allowing 22 hits and seven walks with 21 strikeouts. Overall, he was 1-1, 6.06 with Seattle and 2-4, 2.76 with 11 saves for Triple-A Tacoma an was a midseason Pacific Coast League All-Star.

 “Josh has the stuff to get hitters out in the American League East and began to show that during the second half of last season,” Rays Friedman said. “We believe he can be an important part of our success here for many years."

Lueke was acquired by Seattle from Texas in the July 2010 Cliff Lee trade. While with Texas, he pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of false imprisonment with violence stemming from a May 2008 incident, according to the Seattle Times, and was setenced to 40 days in prison, and was freed with time already served.

Lueke, according to the Times, originally faced rape and sodomy charges in Bakersfield, Calif. , after being arrested following an investigation into a May 2008 incident in which a woman said she met several minor-league players after attending a Bakersfield Blaze Class A game, then accompanied them to bars and to an apartment shared by Lueke and a teammate. According to the Times, she said she passed out, and when she awoke the next morning some of her clothes were missing. 

Lueke, according to the Times, was arrested and charged with rape and sodomy in May 2009, and "the probable cause statement for arrest stated that semen found on the victim was a DNA match for Lueke."  He was jailed on $150,000 bail and remained there until his plea deal was struck, according to the Times, and Lueke maintained "that he was out partying with the woman and his teammates but that he never raped or had sex with her."

Lueke was placed on the suspended list by the Rangers, then reinstated after his plea deal. 

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said at the time of the trade that Rangers officials assured him Lueke had put the issue behind him. "They assured us that the issues were none that they had any concern about as they moved forward, and for the last couple of years, he's been a model citizen,'' Zduriencik told the Times. 

[Last modified: Tuesday, December 27, 2011 12:40am]

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