Since bottoming out two winters ago Jesus Montero has done everything everyone has asked of him. He has worked very hard, likely harder than I have ever worked at anything in my life, to regain his health and maximize his gifts. He went to Tacoma, where he hit .355/.398/.569 in 430 PA. He has had a fantastic attitude, accepting whatever role the team has found for him. He's done everything right. Except hit in the majors.
So while Jerry Dipoto speaks glowingly both professionally and personally about Jesus Montero, the actions of the team he commands speak much louder than those words. After acquiring Adam Lind it seemed the Mariners were prepared to slot Montero into an everyday role as the RH portion of a platoon. Since then the Mariners have signed Gaby Sanchez, Ed Lucas, and then today, the team signed Dae-ho Lee, a gigantic mass of ambling curves that also happens to mash the hell out of baseballs, to a minor league contract.
The takeaway here is simple: Despite all that he has done right over the past 24 months, the Jerry Dipoto Mariners have no more expectations for Jesus Montero than Jack Zduriencik did 2 years and 40 pounds ago. The phrasing will be gentler, more smiley, and better dressed (because it is coming from Jerry Dipoto) but the major leagues are a bottom line business, and Montero is a 26 year old "1B" with a career 92 wRC+.
None of this gives me any joy, as much as the idea of possibly the softest face in the game mashing gigantic taters all summer makes me giggle. I love Jesus Montero. Like all of us he has battled demons, but he has done so on a stage much larger than most of us will ever know. He has battled them, at worst, to a detente, and for fans of the rise/fall/triumph story arc he has carried us through the first 2/3 of his story, and is poised to deliver a smashing final act.
But those are just stories, and this is baseball. Baseball's failure is merciless, both on player and fan. For a player without options the Mariners are not counting on Jesus Montero, and they have gone so far as to assemble a famished hoard to claim his place should he falter, even for a moment.
The Mariners don't care about all the work that Jesus Montero has put in to become who he is, because the stinging reality is who he is isn't good enough. For him to finish this thing that many of us have become weirdly attached to, he will have to be better than he has ever been, or he will no longer be a Mariner. That would make for a great story, but that's mainly because of how unlikely it really is.