Prior to the 2012 season the Seattle Mariners made a bold move, acquiring top prospect Jesus Montero from the New York Yankees to help solidify their future behind the plate. Or, at least that was the plan at the time. Montero has struggled since arriving in Seattle, both at the plate and behind it, and the team made a decision yesterday to option the 23 year old to Triple-A. Jesus Sucre has been called up to replace him on the active roster.
Montero stepped right into the Mariners’ lineup last season, appearing in 135 games and receiving 553 plate appearances. More than half of those games (78) came as the team’s designated hitter, not as their catcher, as Seattle had other options on the roster who offered more defensively behind the plate. He’d hit .260/.298/.386 on the year, adding 15 HR and 20 2B. Respectable but not spectacular numbers. Yet, it was enough production that the team felt comfortable enough with Montero as their primary catcher that they dealt John Jaso, who’d received most of the playing time at catcher last season, before this season began.
He’s slipped to a .208/.264/.327 line in 110 PA this season. He hasn’t shown much patience at the plate and in recent weeks he’s been sharing time behind the plate with Kelly Shoppach.
Shipping Montero down to Triple-A will hopefully allow him to straighten some things out offensively, as that’s always been what he’s been known for best. He was a top offensive prospect throughout his climb through the minor leagues, but questions about his defensive future have existed for some time now. It’s believed that Montero won’t catch much for Tacoma, given the presence of the team’s top prospect, Mike Zunino, on the roster. Zunino has already leapfrogged Montero as the team’s “catcher of the future” which will force the team to find another place for Montero to get into the lineup.
Sucre has seen limited playing time on the season (again, thanks to Zunino’s presence at Triple-A) but has hit .302/.373/.321 in 59 PA. He’s been described as a defense-first backstop, perhaps explaining why the team elected to call him up now instead of Zunino.
Possibly the only consolation to the Mariners’ struggles with Montero is the fact that none of the players involved in that trade have flourished for either side. Hector Noesi, acquired with Montero from New York, is 2-12 with a 5.46 ERA in 120.1 IP since joining the Mariners and now finds himself back at Triple-A. Jorge Campos, sent to New York in the deal, missed most of the 2012 season with a bone bruise near his elbow and finds himself on a strict innings limit this season. Michael Pineda, the key piece the Yankees received, also missed the entire 2012 season due to injury and is just now nearing a rehab assignment in the minor leagues.