Trading Betancourt to KC gives Mariners multiple options

It seemed apparent long before manager Don Wakamatsu benched him last month that shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt’s time with the Seattle Mariners wouldn’t last through his contract, which runs through 2011.

Betancourt frustrated his skipper all the way back to spring training with his lack of patience at the plate and focus problems in the field. And despite spurts of improvement in those areas during the season, there wasn’t enough to convince the Mariners that Betancourt was the guy they trust at shortstop the next 2 1/2 years.

So they traded him today, along with some of the approximately $10 million owed him through the end of the contract, to the Kansas City Royals for two minor league pitchers: highly regarded right-hander Danny Cortes and skinny left-hander Derrick Saito.

What did the Mariners accomplish with this trade?

They rid themselves of a player who didn’t fit their long-range view.

They stockpiled more prospects.

And they cleared a salary path that could allow for more moves that would provide immediate help for the division race. The trade also leaves the Mariners thin at shortstop, so don’t be surprised to see changes to address that (and keep those Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez rumors alive).

The Kansas City Star has reported that the Mariners have agreed to pay $3 million of what’s owed Betancourt. If that’s the case, the Mariners would be saving about $7 million of what’s left on his contract. That turns an already nice-looking deal into a great deal.

Between now and the end of his contract, the Mariners would owe Betancourt about $1 million the rest of this year, $3 million next year and $4 million in 2011, with a $2 million buyout of a $6 million club option in 2012.

Cortes, the Royals’ minor league pitcher of the year, will report to AA West Tennessee in the Southern League and Saito will report to A Clinton, Iowa, in the Midwest League. Saito is a 5 foot-9, 155-pound lefty who averaged more than 14 strikeouts per nine innings as a sophomore at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

“The opportunity presented itself for us to acquire a pair of talented arms and as we move forward we felt this was the right thing to do at this time,” Zduriencik said in a statement from the Mariners. “We want to thank Yuni for all he has done for the Mariners and wish him the best of luck in Kansas City.”

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