Utilityman Jaso leaning toward retirement

34-year-old 'ready to make that step,' but leaves door open for return

Utilityman Jaso leaning toward retirement

WASHINGTON -- Three years ago, John Jaso thought a series of concussions might end his baseball career before he was ready. On Sunday night, after an 11-8 win in the Pirates' season finale, Jaso said he was ready to call it a career on his terms.

Jaso led off the seventh inning at Nationals Park with likely the last at-bat of his nine-year Major League career, a strikeout. Standing in front of his locker after the game, Jaso made the somewhat surprising revelation that he has been considering retirement.

"Honestly, this is probably it for me as far as baseball goes," Jaso said. "I've played this game for a while. It's done a lot of great things for me. I got to meet a lot of really cool people along the way. My mind is going elsewhere. We'll see. I can't say anything for sure, can't really tell you what the future holds. It would be a really good feeling to leave right now if I did. These last couple years with the Pirates were really good.

"It's just taking that step and being brave enough to do it. For most of us, this is all we know. There's a lot of those 'what ifs' and 'buts' and everything like that. That stuff kind of scares you when you have to make a decision like this. There's a lot of excitement out there that I'm looking forward to. I feel ready to make that step."

Jaso came to Pittsburgh in December 2015 as a former catcher-turned-designated hitter, a position switch made necessary by the multiple concussions he sustained in 2014. The Pirates needed a first baseman, and Jaso was willing to learn. They agreed to a two-year, $8 million contract.

When Josh Bell solidified himself as the future at first base, the easy-going Jaso rolled with the change. Despite limited outfield experience, he accepted the assignment to play right and left field. He even took ground balls at third base this spring. A career .258/.356/.407 hitter, Jaso struggled through several slumps this season and slashed just .211/.328/.402 in 126 games.

"I just appreciate the opportunity they gave me from the get-go, the contract they extended to me back when I first became a free agent," Jaso said. "Just new challenges and everything, keeping the game a little bit on the fresher side for me, it's been great. Shoot, when I had the concussions, I thought my career was over, and I got to push through three more seasons."

Recently, as the idea of retirement solidified in his mind, Jaso hinted to teammates, manager Clint Hurdle and general manager Neal Huntington that he was nearing the end of his playing days. He joked on Saturday that he wanted to pitch in Sunday's game before calling it a career.

So what's next for Jaso? The free-spirited 34-year-old has no shortage of ideas. For one, he hopes to use his "construction expertise" to help with hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

He mostly wants to travel more and live simply, he said. After years of life in the spotlight of baseball, anonymity has an appeal. He owns a sailboat that he'd like to spend more time on.

"I just want to live a simple life," Jaso said. "If you live on a sailboat, it's really hard to live complicated."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.