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Pirates

Pirates sign free agent 1B Jaso to 2-year deal

| Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015, 6:30 p.m.
The Pirates signed veteran John Jaso to a two-year, $8 million contract Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015.
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The Pirates signed veteran John Jaso to a two-year, $8 million contract Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015.

The Pirates will follow an old plan with a new face at first base next season.

By signing veteran John Jaso to a two-year, $8 million contract Wednesday, the Pirates landed a platoon partner for Mike Morse. As was the case last year with Pedro Alvarez, Jaso has little experience at first base.

Jaso, 32, broke into the majors in 2008 as a catcher. His time behind the plate ended after Jaso suffered two concussions in the span of a year.

This past season, Jaso played in 70 games — 48 as the designated hitter — with the Tampa Bay Rays. Over seven seasons in the majors, he has played in just two games at first base.

“I'm excited to take on the new position at first,” Jaso said by phone from his home in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“I've done the DH thing, but it's always nice having leather on my hand.”

A left-handed batter, Jaso last season hit .286 with an .839 OPS. After injuring his wrist Opening Day, Jaso sat out three months. He led the Rays with a .377 on-base percentage over the final three months of the season.

“We love the offense he brings,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “He'll be a tremendous complement to our existing lineup. He's a veteran presence who puts together quality plate appearances.”

Jaso also can play the corner outfield spots. Huntington said Jaso is willing to be the emergency catcher, if needed.

“Our hope is to not have to take him up on that offer,” Huntington said. “We feel John's feet and hands will work well at first base. He's very intent on making this work.”

Special assistant Kevin Young, who this year tutored Alvarez, will help Jaso transition to his new role.

Jaso lives about a half-hour drive from the Pirates' complex in Bradenton, Fla. He plans to be an early arrival for spring training and might attend the voluntary minicamp Jan. 11-15 at Pirate City.

“I'd like to get as much time in as I can,” Jaso said. “I've already played the most demanding position on the field (catcher). I feel I'm athletic enough for first base. It's a matter of learning new techniques.”

Also Wednesday, the Pirates claimed relief pitcher Yoervis Medina off waivers from the Chicago Cubs.

Medina, 27, went a combined 1-0 with a 4.71 ERA and a 1.62 WHIP in 17 games last season with the Cubs and Seattle Mariners. He averaged 6.9 strikeouts per nine innings but also issued seven walks in 12 innings pitched.

“We still like his fastball-slider combination,” Huntington said.

The Cubs acquired Medina from the Mariners on May 19 for catcher Welington Castillo.

In 146 big league outings, Medina has gone 10-9 with a 3.08 ERA and 147 strikeouts in 146 innings. He made his debut with the Mariners in April 2013.

Medina filled the 40-man roster spot that opened when left-handed reliever Bobby LaFromboise was claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Angels.

LaFromboise pitched in 11 games for the Pirates this year. He became expendable when the Pirates picked up lefty swingman Kyle Lobstein on Monday.

Note: Double-A Altoona's Clario Perez, a 23-year-old left-hander, was suspended 80 games for violating the minor-league drug program. Perez tested positive for metabolites of stanozolol. He was 2-4 with a 2.65 ERA this year.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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