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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 20, 2012 at 12:16 PM

Montero’s agent: “Jesus is happy. He just wants to play baseball.”

monteromug.jpg

Here’s an Interesting article in which Rangers president Nolan Ryan reveals more about the Prince Fielder negotiations than I’ve read anywhere else. I’d say the Rangers remain a very viable landing spot for Fielder.

And here’s an interesting take on the Mariners’ trade with the Yankees from ESPN’s Jayson Stark (scroll past the long Victor Martinez item).

Update: I tweeted this earlier, but Jesus Montero has arrived in Seattle and underwent his physical Saturday. No official announcement of the trade is expected until Monday, however.

I talked today with Jesus Montero’s agent, Jamie Appel, who assures me that Montero is doing everything he can to make his way to Seattle. He’s had to deal with weather issues, plane issues, and visa issues (nothing sinister, but it’s just not that easy to leave Venezuela for the United States at the drop of a hat, especially when you’ve already traveled once to the states this winter, as Montero has, to attend the MLB Player Development seminar and do an autograph signing). The hope is that he’ll arrive today so he can undergo the physical that is holding up the Mariners’ pending trade with the Yankees, which was consummated one week ago today. He’s said to be en route, but no official announcement is likely today.

Appel, by the way, is getting quite a foothold with the Mariners. The firm for which he works, ACES — owned by veteran agents Seth and Sam Levinson — represents not only Montero, but also Hector Noesi, the other player obtained in the trade that will (eventually) send Michael Pineda and Jose Campos to the Yankees. ACES also has John Jaso, the catcher obtained earlier this winter from the Rays for Josh Lueke, as well as closer Brandon League and infielder Chone Figgins.

Back to Montero (who today was ranked the No. 1 catching prospect in MLB by Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com). I asked Appel what Montero’s reaction was when he heard about the trade to Seattle (where he was very nearly dealt in July of 2010, for Cliff Lee).

“He’s happy,” he said. “He’s the type of guy who says, I’m playing baseball, I can be thankful for that.’ Jesus is happy. He just wants to play baseball. That was his quote. Jesus is a very quiet, reserved kid. He’s very polite, comes from a good family background, good parents.”

As an aside, here’s something I didn’t know about Montero: He has a little brother who catches in the Cardinal organization. This gets a little confusing, but the brother is also named Jesus Montero Jesus Rafael Montero, as opposed to Jesus Alejandro Montero, the would-be Mariner. “We call him Montero Jr. in the office,” Appel said.

Jesus A. got the size genes — he’s listed as 6-foot-3, 235-pounds while Jesus R., age 20, is listed as 5-10, 170 in the Cardinals’ media guide, 5-11, 185 on Baseball Reference.com.

Montero does know Felix Hernandez, who grew up in Valencia, Venezuela, not far from Montero’s hometown of Guacara (about 12 miles, according to Mr. Google). The trade news didn’t come as a total shock, considering the rumor mill had long churned out his name.

“He knew he was the biggest chip,” Appel said. “He had kind of been told it was a possibility, and he’s always level-headed and aware. There are two variables — one is that he likely will have more playing time in Seattle this year. He probably would have been in the lineup for the Yankees, but all indications are that he would be on the team and that was it. How many days a week he would catch or DH would be determined by Skip (manager Joe Girardi). With the Mariners, he’ll probably be DH if he’s not catching — you would assume. He still has to work hard and prove himself, obviously, but I’m sure they traded for him to be in the lineup. The bottom line is he’s happy to play, and he appreciates that God gave him the talent to play in the big leagues.”

Appel said Montero is used to being in the spotlight. “He’s been on the radar since day one. Everyone knows about him. When you’re the No. 1 prospect in an organization, you’re always on the radar. When it’s the Yankees, you’re on a super radar. He’s always had the work ethic, always had the bat, and the drive. He’s in really good shape. He’s one of those kids that come around only once in awhile, guys like him and Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.”

Montero has been dogged by doubts about his defensive ability, but “he definitely feels confident he can catch in the majors,” Appel said.

Appel said Noesi is also happy about the pending trade.

“He knows now he’ll really get a legitimate chance to break into the rotation if he does what he’s supposed to do. He wants to work hard and show he’s a rotation guy. He knew the Yankees would give him a shot, but realistically, he probably would have ended up in the bullpen or as the No. 5 guy. And as with most organizations, with a guy like him, they don’t want him wasting away, so he could have ended up in Triple-A pitching every five days. With the M’s, he could have a legitimate shot at a rotation spot, but he still has to do it. ”

Montero’s arrival could obviously have an effect on Jaso. Unless there’s another move, the Mariners now have Montero, Jaso and incumbent starter Miguel Olivo all coming to camp as catchers, along with Adam Moore and Chris Gimenez .

“John is always in good shape — he’s going to come in and compete,” Appel said. “Jaso’s clear-minded about it. He’s athletic enough that if he needs to move to another position or try something else, he’s up for it. It’s a good option to have for Skip (Eric Wedge) — three different catchers with three different roles.”

As for Figgins, Appel said he’s in a good frame of mind and anxious to rebound from two sub-par seasons with the Mariners. Figgins didn’t play after Aug. 1 last year because of a strained right hip flexor. In 81 games, he hit .188, after putting up a .259 average in 2010. Figgins has two more years left on the four-year, $36-million contract he signed prior to the 2010 season.

“This whole offseason he’s been working on getting healthy,” Appel said. “That’s his goal. He feels he can come into camp healthy, put last year behind him, and move forward. He can’t dwell on the past. He knows what he has to do, and the first thing is to get as healthy as possible.”

(Photo by Getty Images)

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