The mood is heavy in Mariners camp today.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Once-highly touted prospect Jesus Montero, who was acquired from the New York Yankees in the trade that sent Michael Pineda to the Bronx, has reportedly arrived at Mariners camp 40 pounds above the weight goal the organization had given him.
“It’s up to him,” Mariners’ GM Jack Zduriencik told Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. ” I have zero expectations for Jesus Montero. Any expectations I had are gone.”
Zero expectations is a far cry from the player who was once ranked as one of the game’s best catching prospects. Since the trade, which occurred prior to the 2012 season, Montero’s work ethic and focus have come under fire repeatedly, coming to a head with his lack of offseason conditioning this winter.
In hopes of salvaging anything from the deal, Seattle has been exploring using Montero exclusively as a designated hitter in 2014, thinking he needed to focus solely on his approach at the plate, rather than calling games as well.
“I can’t want it for him,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “At some point, the light has to come on for all of us. When I talked with him, I told him he’s at a crossroads. It’s time to put up or shut up.”
Last year, he appeared in just 29 big league games for Seattle, batting .208/.264/.327 in a total of 101 at-bats. He spent the bulk of the season in the minors, where he played 27 games between Rookie Level and Triple-A Tacoma. His offense wasn’t much better, even in the lower levels, as he hit just .250 and failed to push his slugging percentage higher than .396.
Montero is under team control through the 2018 season and won’t see arbitration until 2016. Something has to give, because the Mariners’ patience is clearly running low. The catcher, though, appears ready for an “opportunity” – something Seattle leadership says won’t be handed to him anytime soon.
“I feel comfortable with my weight. But they want me to lose some weight. Whatever they want. I’m here for the opportunity.”