The Seattle Mariners have been one of the busiest teams of the offseason, picking up Robinson Cano, Logan Morrison, and Corey Hart within the last week. This has made Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero expendable, and the Mariners let other teams know about it earlier this week.
The #Mariners are letting teams know that Jesus Montero, as well as Justin Smoak, are available in trades.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 12, 2013
Smoak would be a redundant piece given Miguel Cabrera's move back to first base, but Montero could fit as a backup catcher and designated hitter if the Tigers are so inclined.
Who is he?
Jesus Alejandro Montero is a 24 year old Venezuelan that was signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent in 2006. He tore through the minor leagues, spending the entirety of his age 20 and 21 seasons at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He debuted with the Yankees in a September call-up in 2011, hitting .328/.406/.590 in 69 plate appearances. Before he was handed the reins to the catching job in New York, he was traded to the Seattle Mariners (along with Hector Noesi) for Michael Pineda and minor leaguer Jose Campos in a deal that has gone horribly wrong for both sides so far.
Why should we care?
It's simple: he's young, he's cost-controlled, and he has a world of potential as a hitter. Montero's torrid pace through the minor leagues put him on Baseball America' s top 100 prospects list for four consecutive years from 2009 to 2012, including three years in the top six. He topped out at #3 in 2011 behind a pair of decent talents named Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Not all prospects pan out, but Montero is far from being a true bust at this point in his career.
Why should we stay away?
Since arriving in Seattle, Montero's bat has all but disappeared. In 164 games across two seasons, Montero is hitting just .252/.293/.377 in a Mariners uniform. He was sent down to the minor leagues last year, where he hit .250/.327/.396 in 110 plate appearances. His contact rate dropped considerably from 2012 to 2013 in the major leagues, as he whiffed on a whopping 12.6% of the pitches he swung at. His severe drop in power and inability to make contact at this point in his career are both pretty concerning for a guy who was never going to be known for his glove.
Will he end up in Detroit?
I'm mildly intrigued by this idea. He is young, cost-controlled, and has a track record of hitting very well in the minor leagues. I'm not sure I like the idea of him catching very often, but he could man a backup role this year or spend the season in Triple-A if needed, then become the team's full-time designated hitter in 2014 if Victor Martinez is not retained. Will it happen? Probably not, as Seattle will look to recoup way more than Montero is presently worth.