By John Boyle
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik and newest Mariner Jesus Montero talked to reporters on a conference call this afternoon, covering a bunch of topics, including where Montero, who is listed as a catcher, will play, the Mariners profile in Venezuela, Alex Rodriguez (really), and the art of a good, old-fashioned baseball trade.
Starting with the trade itself, what seems clear from both teams is that they both feel like they got better, a rarity in this day and age when most trades involve the baseball haves taking from the have-nots. This was a trade where a hitting-starved team, the Mariners, got a potentially great bat, while the Yankees added much needed pitching help by snagging Michael Pineda.
“In order to get someone who you covet, you have to give up something good in return,” Zduriencik said. “This was one of those old-fashioned baseball trades, if you will, where really there was nothing exchanged except talent. I’m sure New York feels they received talent in return and we’re very positive about the talent that we received.”
“We had a need, and to get really good players, you have to give up really good players. If this goes down as a trade that helps the Yankees and helps us both long-term and short-term, then it’s a win-win for everybody. . neither one of us was trying to walk away from this thing thinking like, ‘Hey, I got the upper hand, I got the better end of the deal here.’ I don’t think that was going to happen with younger players, because there were no contracts involved; it was only talent.”
On a conference call with New York reporters, Yankees GM Brian Cashman said: “He may very well be the best player I’ve ever traded, and obviously I’ve been doing this a long time. He’s that good… He’s going to have a heck of a career.”
It’s clear that the 22-year-old Montero will be a key part of the Mariners lineup, but where he will play remains to be seen. He is listed as a catcher, which is where he played primarily in the minor leagues, but was mostly a DH during his call-up with the Yankees last year, and some have questioned whether he can be a big league catcher.
“We’re going to give him every opportunity to be all he can be, whatever that might be,” Zduriencik said. “We know that he’s a quality young man, we know he’s a guy that has a chance to be a very good offensive player. He’s a smart kid. And he’s going to get every opportunity to catch as well. So things will work themselves out, but what we like is the player we’ve acquired.”
Asked about whether he wants to catch, Montero said: “That’s why I’m here. I’m looking for a spot, looking for an opportunity, I’m going to keep working hard behind the plate to do my best.”
Montero will not only provide a bat for the Mariners, but also more fans in Venezuela. The Mariners already have a following there, largely because of Felix Hernandez, but also because of Franklin Gutierrez and former Mariner Jose Lopez.
“People (in Venezuela) know a lot about Seattle,” Montero said. “But now it’s going to be better because we’re going to win.”
And if Montero does hit well in Seattle, and in turn help the Mariners win, as he hopes to do, Mariners fans may begrudgingly have to thank Alex Rodriguez of all people. When he joined the Yankees late last season, Montero said he wasn’t hitting the batting cages enough for Rodriguez liking.
“He taught me a lot of things,” he said. “First of all, he was mad at because I wasn’t going to the cage a lot. He told me, ‘If you don’t go to the cage, I’m going to fine you $100 every day.’ . . I learned all the routines he taught me and everything was good after that.”