Goodbye Michael Pineda. Hello Jesus Montero.

On Friday evening I received a text from a friend that read something to the effect of “Dude! What do you think!?” and my initial reaction was oh my god how much money did we just give Prince Fielder. I was mildly concerned  but also sort of excited as I stole my wife’s iPhone away in order to access the interwebs. What I found when I got there wasn’t anything near what I was expecting. Michael Pineda, Yankee. Jesus Montero, Mariner. Two other players, also involved. Let’s see if I can go this whole post without mentioning them by name.

Initial gut reaction: Oh shit. For a couple of reasons. One) I feel like the A’s and Padres got more value in return for their young upside arms than the Mariners did. This is probably related to two. Two) Ever since the Mariners seemingly chose Justin Smoak over Montero in the Cliff Lee trade, the Mariners fan in me has been slowly turning against Montero. This has been a defense mechanism, but it’s still difficult to change course that quickly and abruptly. Now, sure, it really wasn’t as simple as “the Mariners prefer Smoak over Montero,” there were other names involved in that trade proposal—there were injury concerns and physicals and broken ankles and the like. The same as most things, it was more complicated than it looked at first glance, but Smoak over Montero has a certain simplicity to it, and it’s stuck ever since. With that, I’ve been going about my business as a Mariner’s fan cherry picking opinions about Smoak and Montero that fit what I want to believe. Smoak is still developing, he had that broken thumb he was playing through, his father passed away, he got hit in the face with a baseball. He had a tough year and is poised for a true breakout. Jesus Montero can’t catch, his development stalled in triple A, he’s more Carlos Lee than Frank Thomas, he’s a New York media hype beast. He’s overrated and I’m glad we passed on him. Yeah, so much for all that.

Once we move beyond my initial reaction and the way I’ve been consuming Montero news over the last season and a half, my thoughts get a big (more) fragmented. About Michael Pineda: I will miss him. I’ve constructed many future hypothetical rotations with Pineda firmly entrenched in the number 2 spot. His talent is undeniable. That being said, I’ve not been opposed to the idea of trading him. When Dave Cameron started making noise about such a move, I can’t say I wasn’t on board with the thought process. Safeco makes pitchers look better than they are. The market for young starting pitching could yield some real value. Pineda’s changeup needs real work. Pitchers get hurt. Like, a lot. The Mariners home park will always make it easier to sign and retain pitchers relative to hitting*. They have a good pile of young arms in the minor leagues. All these things make trading Pineda an easier pill to swallow.

*And if this move means the Mariners are poised to make a run at a free agent pitcher next offseason, I can get even more on board. If the Mariners sign Zach Greinke I might have a heart attack and die of happiness. I will honestly think about this happening constantly for an entire year.

It all depends on what you get in return, of course, and for reasons previously stated, Jesus Montero is a complicated answer to that. (I should digress and mention that there were two other players in this deal. I’m not smart enough to really dive into that. Go figure. It sounds like the Mariners surrendered a young flame-thrower with a high ceiling and a low basement for a slightly older but still young starter with less upside but lower risk. He might even be better than people initially thought. Let’s just be simpletons, call it a wash, and prepare for heartburn when the future proves it to be anything but.) And so, Jesus Montero. First, the important part: I’m excited to make a bunch of Big Lebowski references and call him Big Baby. As for the baseball part, fuck, I still don’t know. I could be a real blogger and link to like, twenty-four Fangraphs articles on this subject, reference them, and then extrapolate with my thoughts. That sounds like a lot of work! Basically, let’s just cheat:

  • I sure hope Jesus Montero is better than I’ve been convincing myself he is! It turns out, if you care to look, there are still a lot of really smart and insightful and experienced people who think he’s going to be a star. I guess one becomes a huge prospect for good reason.
  • On the whole catching thing: I still can’t really convince myself that that’s going to happen. How about 40-50 games a season? That seems like a perfectly reasonable compromise.
  • Dude has opposite field power. That’s good. Safeco Field can sure be annoying some times.
  • A line-up that features a run of Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak is a very nice thing to think about. It’s even better when you think about those players as having all reached their full potential from when they were big deal prospects. These guys are all still so young. It could happen, right?

After a lot of reading over the weekend, I’ve come around on this trade. Way more so than three-beers Davis would have thought possible on Friday night. I keep coming back to this idea that the Mariners are just able to get more out of pitchers than other teams due to their park, and can therefore trade pitching for value, rinse and repeat. They seem to be aware of this and know how to use it to their advantage. At Safeco, crappy pitchers seem ok, mediocre pitchers seem kind of good, good pitchers seem great, and Felix Hernandez seems like a golden god. This is the Mariners lot in life. And I trust in the organization to make the most of it all. I trust in the organization as a whole, as a matter of fact, and this trade isn’t about to change that. The Mariners will be good some day, maybe even soon, and Jesus Montero will hopefully be a reason why. That’s cool with me.

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