Just as all you nay-sayers were ready to jump off the Mariner & Jack Z bandwagon, Seattle acquired one of the top power-hitting prospects in the nation on Friday night, in Jesus Montero from the New York Yankees. The Mariners had to give up Michael Pineda, their 2nd best starting pitcher to accomplish that feat, but after examining this trade further, I really believe the Mariners made the right move.
First off, there isn’t a scout in America that doesn’t agree that Montero is a can’t miss hitting prospect. His career offensive numbers are a staggering .308/.366/.501 (average/ on-base/slugging), he also batted .328 with 4 homeruns in his September call-up last season. Though his defense has been questioned at times, Seattle doesn’t need him to play catcher all that often with Olivo on the roster. He can be brought up as a DH, and groomed for another position over time if the organization chooses.
The Mariners lose Pineda, who looks to be a potentially dominant starting pitcher for years with his 6’7” frame and diabolical slider (Dave Niehaus’s words). This seems like a steep price to pay. However, the Mariners play in the best pitching park in the league. No one knew who Michael Pineda and Doug Fister were two years ago. Yet the stadium transformed both of them into above-average #2 starters. Jack Z has parlayed that success into two trades that brought very respected prospects into Seattle, prospects that Seattle could have never acquired straight-up two years ago for the exact same players. That being said, Jack Z needs to be given credit for maximizing the value of his resources based on their surroundings.
Furthermore, we already know what the Mariners can do with their current starting pitching and zero offensive firepower. We all suffered through the team’s hitting nightmares the last two seasons. It would be moronic to trot out the same roster and expect drastic results in 2012. A move like this had to be made to bolster the Mariners’ much maligned line-up. On top of that, remember that Seattle has excellent pitching depth across the board. It seems much more plausible that Seattle’s stadium and farm system can churn out the next Michael Pineda 3 times over before it finds the next Jesus Montero. Waiting in the wings behind Felix and Vargas are a plethora of hot, young arms: Blake Beavan, Charlie Furbush, Chance Ruffin, and Danny Hultzen. Surely one of them can fill the void left by Pineda. Also, don’t sleep on the underrated signing last week of the very quality Japanese starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, who figures to be #3 or #4 in the rotation.
Next season the Mariners will also throw out a bevy of young, highly touted bats: Montero will be joined by Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, Mike Carp, Chih Hsieng-Chiang, Alex Liddi, and Casper Wells. If even half of these bats turn out somewhere close to what they are fully capable of, the Mariners may actually be able to score some runs. 2013 will also bring the uncanny hitting prowess of tall and skinny Nick Franklin at SS – who continues to defy traditional logic and is killing the ball in the minor leagues.
The move likely spells the end of the Prince Fielder sweepstakes. The Mariners were in the market to acquire a big bat and they did, at a milli-fraction of the salary (Both Pineda and Montero are under firmly structured rookie contracts). This trade had almost zero to do with economics, and everything to do with need. The M’s are arm-heavy, and traded one for a bat; a big bat. It’s about damn time.
You may remember that I previously stated that I was going to kick the Mariners to the proverbial curb like a trailer trash husband until they earned my time by addressing their offensive woes. Well Jack Z, put on your best pig-killing boots and give the old El Camino a jump, because we’re getting back together tonight.