Saturday, January 14, 2012

Jesus Saves?

John Jaso, George Sherill, Munenori Sasaki, Hisashi Iwakuma; you knew the other shoe had to drop soon.  Jack Zdurencik would have to bring a bat to Safeco if there was any hope of putting some sizzle in the Mariners' wimpy batting order.
Phenom Michael Pineda to Yanks for highly rated catcher/dh Jesus Montero is a good trade for both teams.
As we all know, however, sizzle comes with a cost, and the acquisition of Yankees slugger in waiting Jesus Montero cost the M's starter Michael Pineda.  Pineda rapidly became a fan favorite as a rookie by winning in April and May, making the All-Star team, striking out 173 in 171 innings.  By the second half of the season, however, Pineda was struggling with walks, homers and lack of run support.  He threw too many strikes with his heater, and couldn't throw enough with his slider.  All of this was fixable, however, and I was looking forward to another year of Pineda slotted behind Felix in the rotation.

 Unfortunately, the lack of news on Prince Fielder made it seem more and more likely the M's would have to trade pitching to bolster their offense.  When I heard the news tonight it was difficult to decide whether this is a good deal or not.  The M's get a batter widely believed to be a can't miss monster.  A right hander with the kind of power that Safeco should not diminish, Montero is compared to Miguel Cabrera with power to all fields.  He won't be a pull hitter intimidated by Safeco's deep left field as Mike Cameron and Adrian Beltre were.
There is little question Montero is patient, can hit for power and average. 

It's a small sample size but the graph from Hit Tracker shows the true location of Montero's four late season home runs.  They're dingers at Safeco too.  Three of them to the opposite field.

Montero does bring a negative however, a big one.  Primarily a minor league catcher, he's a bad backstop.  Having a recent history of bad backstops, we need another like a hole in the head.  The M's recently went out and acquired Jaso to rest Miguel Olivo's passed ball machine, and I'm not sure we need to offer bad catching skills more time.  This means Montero is likely a DH, though there is some thinking his catching skills could be raised as high as Mike Piazza's . Jim Bowden at ESPN believes he could be teachable.  Perhaps another student for Roger Hansen;  it may be worth the time.
"Tools of ignorance" or tools of incompetence?  This is a much bigger deal for the M's if Montero can catch.
 So the principals in the deal cost the Yanks and M's something they'd rather not part with. The Yankees get a starter they've coveted and the M's begin unenfeebling their offense with a potentially potent bat. The secondary parts to the deal I'm less wild about.  19 year old minor league pitcher Jose Campos is going from the M's to the Yankees while New York ships young hurler Hector Noesi to the M's.  Campos is considered a potential ace in the making, though several years away from the majors.  Noesi was primarily a starter in the minors, but made the vast majority of his appearances for the Yankees out of the bullpen.  He's projected as a back of the rotation starter.  Bird in the hand, versus ace in the bush?  I think we gave a bit much here given the M's depth of pitching close to the majors. It's a trade for the here and now versus the future. 

Is this a good or bad deal for the M's?  It's not a perfect deal.  It's one in which fans from both teams are divided.  I see it as a deal made for need, in which your team trades something that is a strength to help fix a weakness.The M's traded the very visible Pineda with his big rookie year for a hitter that is a year's performance less established, plus Noesi provides pitching help today-this minute.  This deal is a bit more risky for the M's than the Yankees, but it does address the M's offense issues right now.  There doesn't seem to be anybody in the M's minor league system who can be this kind of masher.

The response is interesting.  The Mariners fan base, which has cried out for Fielder and more offense, is divided between those who can accept the deal and those who think it is the worst deal since . . . the last deal.  Trade Howie and Chucky.  Many Yankees fans feel they put one over on the M's.  I found the most interesting reaction over on Lookout Landing in the comments section.  Brandon C. (amid the more than 400 comments on the trade) hosts the SB Nation Pinstripe Alley blog provided his response to the trade, which were generally balanced.  Both Montero and Noesi will be missed by the Yankees and offer good value to the Mariners now.

 Is this a perfect deal?  No.  It is clear the Mariners got one bat they needed.  Dave Cameron also offered it opens the way to more deals.  No money traded hands here-the money is still available to make deals, either for more pitching-say a year of Roy Oswalt-or taking on more salary in a trade for more bats.  It clogs the situation at catcher/DH, and moves Mike Carp out to LF in the vast wasteland of Safeco's left field.  That's a situation I find less than optimal. If Prince Fielder should be signed-a situation I find less and less likely, he doesn't want to play here-that makes things even worse. More deals should come as we head into spring training.

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