It’s not even Christmas and the Seattle Mariners are basically done making major moves to improve their roster. They filled needs in the rotation, bullpen, first base and outfield or at least did on paper. The outfield got more athletic and the rotation has years and years of team control, just as new general manager Jerry Dipoto wanted. Adam Lind was brought in to play first base but he struggles against left-handers. This is where Jesus Montero comes in.
Montero, former top prospect with the New York Yankees, was acquired in the trade that sent Michael Pineda to the Bronx before the 2013 season. Since then he has been called out for not producing, being overweight and even getting an ice cream sandwich thrown at him by a scout. The journey has been quite a roller coaster ride to say the least and 2016 could be the year the ride comes to an end with the M’s or gets kick started.
Montero has a career slash line of .253/.295/.398 in 262 career games. He burst onto the baseball scene in 2011 with the Yankees, hitting .328 with four home runs in just 18 games. After being traded to the M’s he played in 135 games in 2012 hitting .260 with 15 home runs. Since then he has played only 73 games in the big leagues with a .217 average and just 9 home runs.
There is a spot for Montero on the current roster as a right-handed bat off the bench but he is going to have to earn it. Montero is out of options so if he fails to make the Opening Day roster for the M’s. In that case, he will probably be suiting up for a different team. To his credit, he has worked extremely hard cutting down his weight and becoming a useful first baseman. His next hurdle he has to overcome is hitting in the big leagues.
Last season, the 26-year-old played 98 games for the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers and slugged 18 home runs to go along with a .355 average. He has proven he can hit in the minors but will need to get past the mental block he has hitting at the big league level. If Montero makes this team he will be asked to pinch hit and spot start against lefties. In his career facing lefties he holds a .292/.341/.429 slash line in 315 at-bats. If he could come close to those numbers in 2016, he would be a big boost to the very left-handed lineup of the M’s. While his career against southpaws looks good, his 2015 wasn’t pretty. He managed only 15 hits in 73 at-bats (.205 AVG) with 21 strikeouts.
Dipoto has traded quite a few of the past acquisitions and draft picks of the Jack Zduriencik era, but Montero remains. We won’t have to wait long to see if Dipoto’s decision to keep Montero will pay off. We should have an answer by the end of spring. I really hope that Montero can turn the corner this season and produce for the M’s, but if not I hope he succeeds with the next organization.