So, wow … Pineda for Montero, indeed
I was on the Hot Stove Show on 710 ESPN Seattle last night when co-host Matt Pitman asked what I thought the Mariners would do if they didn’t get Prince Fielder. And, I’m happy to say now, my reply was that a trade made more sense than chasing some of the available — and aging — free-agent DH types like Vlad Guerrero or Johnny Damon.
I mentioned the Mariners’ surplus of pitching could be used to land a young bat that fit more in the long-term plan than a one-year deal with Carlos Pena or some other Boras client that would cost a lot in free agency.
But, no, I really did NOT foresee any such move coming like a bolt of lightning less than 24 hours later on Friday the 13th, when Jack Zduriencik dealt Michael Pineda for Yankees thumper Jesus Montero in a blockbuster four-player trade.
You can say a lot of things about this deal, but, well … wow. That sums up the initial gut reaction. I didn’t see Pineda being the centerpiece of a Mariners trade, assuming they’d use one of the less-proven prospects like Taijuan Walker or Erasmo Ramirez.
But then again, I didn’t know that they’d land a big-time power hitter like Montero in return. As the smart folks say, you have to give up something to get something. And both teams bit the bullet hard on this deal.
It’s interesting that many Yankees fans are bemoaning the loss of Montero, while the majority of Mariners fans seem upset at losing Pineda. Depends who you’re most familiar with on that one, I have a feeling.
I saw a full season of Pineda and am sorry to see him go, no doubt. The big kid was both fun and formidable. He was the essence of a power pitcher and he worked hard. He also wore down in the second half last season, even as the Mariners limited his innings, his fastball dipping into the 90 mph range at times after the early season high-90s heat.
I expected Pineda to come back stronger this year, but there’s no guarantee with any pitcher regarding health. Especially youngsters who throw that hard.
So maybe the Mariners gave up a future Cy Young winner. Or maybe they gave up a youngster who’ll never live up to the immense early expectations. For Pineda’s sake, I hope he does well. He’s a great kid who deserves success.
From a Mariners perspective, Montero has equally tremendous potential — and some questions — as well. This is a 22-year-old with big-time power who is athletic enough to play catcher. Whether he plays catcher well enough to handle that position full-time in the Majors remains one of those questions.
My guess is he’ll split time at DH and catcher much of this season, as he did with the Yankees in his brief — but impressive — September callup last fall. But without a doubt, he’ll slot immediately into the middle of the Mariners lineup. He’s the bat Zduriencik talked of landing this offseason and while there will likely be growing pains, the Mariners will indeed grow with a young nucleus that now includes Dustin Ackley, Mike Carp, Justin Smoak and Montero.
Think of it this way. The Mariners started last season with Jack Wilson at second. Ackley will now fill that role.
They opened the year with Milton Bradley in left field. Carp takes over there.
Smoak was at first base from the opener last year, but could — and should — be a much better player if he lives up to expectations.
And Montero? Pencil him in at DH, where Jack Cust spent the first half last year doing next to nothing power-wise. And Montero will be under the Mariners control for the next six years.
Those are solid upgrades at four positions offensively, which is much needed. Can the Mariners overcome the loss of Pineda in the rotation? That’s a tough one initially, especially if they don’t sign one of the still-available free-agent arms. But even as it stands, they added another potential starter in Hector Noesi, the 24-year-old right-hander also coming in the trade.
And I suspect replacing Pineda eventually with a Danny Hultzen and James Paxton or Erasmo Ramirez — and eventually Taijuan Walker — will be far easier than finding big-time hitters to come to Safeco.
And signing a free-agent pitcher to come perform in Safeco will be far easier than convincing Prince Fielder or the next big bat that comes available.
That’s what this deal was about. The Mariners have pitching strength. they should always be able to add pitching. They need offensive help. So they used a strength to bolster a weakness. And, as always, time will tell how it all pans out.