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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

January 13, 2012 at 9:04 PM

10 final (for tonight, anyway) thoughts on Mariners-Yankees blockbuster

monterocatch.jpg

(Photo by Associated Press)

Now that I’ve pounded out my story for tomorrow’s newspaper — and missed Jim Caple’s 50th birthday party in the process; sorry, Jim. Blame Jack Zduriencik and Brian Cashman — I’ll try to put together some thoughts.

1, People had speculated that Cashman, the Yankees’ GM, wouldn’t deal with the Mariners and Zduriencik again because he was ticked off at the way his previous attempt to trade Montero to Seattle (for Cliff Lee) fell apart. I never believed that. In fact, when I talked to Cashman last spring about the failed Montero deal, I asked him if he would trade with the Mariners in the future. “Of course,” he said.

2, I’ve written often that the knowledge of the Montero non-deal with the Yankees, which resulted in the Mariners landing a Justin Smoak-led package instead, put it out there in the open for the world to judge. People could compare the progress of Smoak and Montero and see how smart Zduriencik was.

Well, now the Mariners have both of them. Optimally, they’ll both blossom together. I know some people are saying that today’s trade proves Zduriencik blew it, that he could have had both Montero and Pineda if he had pulled the trigger on the first trade. But then they wouldn’t have Smoak, whom I believe still has a high upside. When you throw in the fact that the Mariners appear to have some quaity young pitching coming (Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker) and not much quality power coming, I think Montero/Smoak certainly has the potential to be a better combo for them than Montero/Pineda.

That said, the pressure is on Smoak to produce, now more than ever. And check back in five years, when Jose Campos might be the pitcher haunting the Mariners.

3, I can easily see Pineda winning 15 to 20 games for the Yankees next year, with that lineup behind him. He seems to me to have the personality to withstand the pressure of pitching in New York (which I’ve always felt can be overrated for players who aren’t superduper stars like A-Rod, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira. It’s fairly easy for the next echelon of players to simple blend into the background, more or less, while all the hue and cry surrounds the marquee guys.

4, Nice comparison sent my way by Rich Boudet of our sports desk:

When Yankees traded Jay Buhner (1988): 32 games, 3 HRs, 14 RBIs

When Yankees traded Montero: 18 games, 4 HRs, 12 RBIs

I’m trying to reach Frank Costanza for a reaction

5, From a pure baseball standpoint, this is a fantastic trade — two teams filling a need and taking huge risks in the process. Because as much as Michael Pineda (and yes, Jose Campos) could come back to haunt the Mariners, the Yankees risk watching Montero turn into, as Cashman was quoted in a tweet by the Bergen Record’s Bob Klapisch, Miguel Cabrera or Mike Piazza.

In some ways, the trade reminds me of the one I witnessed being announced at the 1990 winter meetings — Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter going from San Diego to Toronto for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez. There were literally gasps from the media when the names were read. A great baseball trade, one of the rare ones not motivated by money, same as this one.

6, You know this is a good baseball trade when you scan the comments in my blog post — by my quick perusal, half the people love it, half think the Mariners are idiots. I hear the Yankee blogs are split the same way.

7, I can understand why some people are certain the Mariners got hosed. The fact is, the Mariners don’t have a good track record in their dealings in recent years. When you have a guy that people have come to admire and appreciate, like Pineda, coming off an All-Star rookie season, traded for someone who is not that well known to the casual fan (though very well known to those who study prospects), and has just 18 games in the majors, there’s naturally going to be some skepticism. The Mariners haven’t earned the benefit of the doubt. The only thing that can change that is for Montero to show on the field that he’s worthy of the hype.

8, Got to give Philip Brown some props for this blog post, way back on Nov. 22.

9, There’s no reason to think the Mariners are done revamping their team. They still should have money left to add some mid-level talent at third base or the outfield, despite the speculation earlier this week that they have nearly reached their budgetary limits.

10, And if they had interest in Prince Fielder yesterday, I don’t see why they wouldn’t still have interest today and tomorrow.

With the proviso that I think Fielder’s acquisition by Seattle always has been and remains a longshot — particularly with the Rangers apparently entering the fray — this Yankees deal did absolutely nothing to change their financial picture. They traded a minimum salary guy for another minimum salary guy.

Allow yourself to dream now, and imaging a lineup with Fielder at first, Smoak at DH, Montero at catcher, Dustin Ackley at second and Mike Carp/Casper Wells in left. That would cause the Ranger and Angels to take notice.

OK, snap out of your reverie. Fielder’s probably not coming here, and we still have to see if Montero can be an every-day catcher. That will be part of the fun of spring training, which promises to be much more interesting that I thought 24 hours ago.

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