Mariners gamble should pay off

Trading away a young, potentially Cy Young-contending starter, is a bold move. The type of move that sets franchises back if it doesn’t go according to plan.

When the Seattle Mariners dealt their probably No. 2 starter for 2012 in Michael Pineda to the New York Yankees (along with P Jose Campos) for C Jesus Montero and P Hector Noesi, they made such a gamble.

Pineda, 22, was pretty special in his rookie season in 2011. In 171 innings, Pineda struck out 173 and walked 55. His ERA was 3.74 and his WHIP 1.10. His impressive start to the season was good enough to make the AL All-Star team.

Despite these facts, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik made the right move in trading Pineda and Campos (who we will get to shortly) for the Yankees star young catcher, Montero (and Noesi).

Montero, 22, is a natural hitter. The fact that he has only played in 18 games thus far in his career has more to do with the fact that the Yankees didn’t really have the room in their starting lineup nor time while they competed for a divisional title, to play the youngster. What he is not, is a natural catcher and whether he is able to stay at that position will determine the true value in this deal.

Wherever Montero plays, whether it’s as a 1B/DH or C or even 3B, he will have value because of his bat. His hitting talent is such that he can contend for batting crowns while clubbing 30+ homers and driving in 100+ runs each and every season. But as the Mariners look to continue to improve an offense that has been historically inept the last two seasons, having the ability to add a player like Prince Fielder for instance, at DH or 1B, while Montero catches and Justin Smoak plays first, is critical.

The fact is the Mariners have pitching. Lots of it. What they were in desperate need of was, and still is, hitting. Lots of it. Adding a player like Montero, who can be a MVP contender in his career, is absolutely necessary for their chances to win divisional titles and make continual trips to the playoffs.

Because no matter how good the Mariners pitch, they still won’t win games without scoring runs. The past two seasons have shown that as the team finished 61-101 and 67-95 while posting team ERA’s of sub-4.00.

This was a deal that showcases four players that are laced with loads of potential but little results. Not a single one of these players have proved themselves yet.

Pineda could be a perennial All-Star and perhaps even a Cy Young winner with the Yankees. So could Campos who is just 19-years-old and probably three years away from making his MLB debut.

Montero, as mentioned, could also be a perennial All-Star and a MVP. Noesi could be a solid middle-of-the-rotation pitcher. Or they could not be.

It is a gamble. One the Mariners had to make and one that they will be able to endure due to the talent they are getting in return and the pitching depth they have in the system.

In the next couple of months, as the Mariners conduct spring training, you’re going to hear a few names over and over again. That of pitchers Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. All three are former first round draft picks and on the short track to the big leagues. All three have higher ceilings than the 6-foot, 7-inch Pineda.

Hultzen and Paxton will be in the Mariners rotation in 2012. Walker will be there in 2013. They will all be good, possibly even great.

And now the Mariners could have an offense that matches them.

 

 

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