Way back in 2011, the Seattle Mariners had a problem. They had assembled a decent pitching staff, but it was backed by an offense that closely resembled a Lego set decimated by a three-year-old.
Starters on the 2011 squad included esteemed mashers like Adam Kennedy, Carlos Peguero, Chone Figgins, and Jack Cust. As a team, the 2011 Mariners had the worst wRC+ in the entire league. On the pitching end though, things looked alright. As we entered the offseason, it was pretty clear that Jack Z would be try to revamp the offense.
Thus, it was entirely understandable when the Mariners swapped Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero. Other pieces in the trade included now Korean Baseball Organization phenom Héctor Noesí, but this is how we ended up with Jesus Montero. We gave away a top young starting pitcher, who at the time had five more years of team control, for seemingly a top young hitter with six.
It was one of those trades where you could only determine a winner and loser after many years, considering the age of the pieces involved. Four years later, it looks like the Mariners drew the short end of the stick once again. It's true that Pineda's Yankee career has been riddled with injuries, flashes of brilliance marred by trips to the disabled list and bouts of mediocrity. But Montero's Mariner career has been characterized by steroids, helmets full of ice-cream, excellent Triple-A numbers, and thoroughly disappointing MLB performance.
Adam Lind's arrival eliminated a chunk of potential playing time Jesus Montero could battle for this season. Lind was brought in to crush right-handed pitchers, leaving Montero with the short half of a platoon split and a few DH reps to fight for. Then there is Gaby Sanchez and Dae-ho Lee, righties who are threatening to take even that away. This spring, it is all on Montero to hit the ball consistently and show why he deserves a future with the club.
Consistency is the big problem with Montero. Montero fit right in with Smoak and Ackley as the trio of young hitters who showed enough promise to deserve an extended opportunity, but never hit consistently well enough to actually deserve a regular job.
After clobbering the ball in Triple-A last season, Montero pieced together a solid month at the plate. Last season, from July 10-August 10, over 47 plate appearances, Montero batted .295/.340/.523, good for a 140 wRC+. Over his final 69 plate appearances though, Montero tanked, hitting just .176/.188/.338 and a 40 wRC+.
Steamer projects that 2016 is finally the year where Montero puts it all together, by which we mean a 0.3 WAR, his first positive total since his 18-game stint as a rookie with the Yankees in 2011.
On paper, pairing Lind and Montero at first base makes sense. As poorly as Lind hits southpaws, the same can be said for Montero against right-handed pitching. In 340 plate appearances against southpaws, Montero owns a 115 wRC+; he's posted a 77 wRC+ against right-handers in 525 PA's.
There is room here for all of this to work, especially if the platoon is used correctly and Montero fulfills his end of the bargain. Then again, it is Jesus Montero, and any expectations left for him have to be tempered.
This spring is Montero's final chance to make it in Seattle. The Triple-A crusher is out of options. The Mariners are tired of just handing him at bats and have invited an army of competitors to make him earn his spot on the team. If Montero can't hold off Lee or Sanchez, it spells the end of his career in Seattle. He will probably be scooped up on waivers and given a chance with some other team. But barring a total collapse by Pineda, it looks like the Yankees won the trade comfortably.