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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 23, 2012 at 3:11 PM

Zduriencik on Montero: “He’ll get every opportunity to catch”

monteromug.jpg

(Strange but true factoid I just noticed from looking at the Seattle roster: Danny Hultzen and Jesus Montero — the M’s hoped-for battery of the future — were each born on Nov. 28, 1989. Whacky. Reminds me of Frank Thomas and Jeff Bagwell , each born on May 27, 1968).

Just got off an hour of conference calls with Yankees GM Brian Cashman, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik, and Jesus Montero.

The theme from Cashman and Zduriencik was that this was a classic example of two teams giving up something of value to get something of value. Cashman even said of Montero, “He may very well be the best player I’ve ever traded, and obviously I’ve been doing this a long time (Yankees GM since 1998). He’s that good — a middle of the order player, very gifted. I was involved in his signing out of Venezuela (as a 16-year-old). He’s a good kid, and he’s going to hav a heck of a career, he really is.”

Cashman added that the first step of the trade occurred at the winter meetings in Dallas in early December.

“We had a brief conversation. Jack had mentioned to me if there was anyone other than Felix Hernandez here we would consider in a Montero discussion. I said, ‘There’s really only one guy.” We kind of focused from there. I said I’m not even sure I’d do that. We talked through it for a long period of time until it got done, but that’s how it got started.

“Both organizations got their interests served here, but it hurt to serve those interests at the same time. It was a tough deal to make, but one that ultimately we were both willing to do.”

Zduriencik, similarly, said he he believes this was an old-fashioned trade in which money wasn’t a factor and which optimally will help both teams.

“Really, nothing was exchanged except talent,” he said. “We’re very positive about the talent we received, and I’m sure the Yankees are, too. …As I said to Brian and he said to me as we went through this, neither one is trying to walk away saying, ‘I got the upper hand, the better end of the deal.’ It was strictly talent for talent. I hope we can look at each other down the road and say, ‘It was win-win for both sides.’ ”

Zduriencik praised Michael Pineda as “a wonderful person. It was very difficult to give up a player like him, an All-Star. …We felt we really needed a boost in our offense. We identified young players around baseball, and in the end we settled for Jesus. We feel he’s a young guy who’s going to come in here and be the type of hitter that’s going to help us for years to come.”

Asked about Montero’s catching tools, which have come under question, Zduriencik said, “I think all that will adjust itself as we go into spring training. We’ve scouted Jesus for a number of years. I knew him when he was an amateur. We’ll give him every opportunity to be all he can be, whatever that might be. He has a chance to be a very good offensive player. He’s a smart kid. He’ll get every opportunity to catch as well. Things will work themselves out. What we like is the player we acquired.”

Cashman said the trade should not be read as a sign that the Yankees don’t think Montero can catch in the major leagues.

“It’s not an ackowledgement of what we believe Montero’s catching abilities are,” he said. “We do believe he can be an every-day catcher in the big leagues. It was really more about trading from an area of strength to shore up an area of need. We gave up a lot in Montero. We hope we got a lot back as well in Pineda.”

Montero said he’s still focused on catching in the big leagues.

“That’s why I’m here,” he said. “I’m looking for an opportunity. I’m going to keep working hard behind the plate. I’m going to do my best, help the team, help the pitchers. I’m going to do everything I can to help Seattle win.”

He said he knows fellow Venezuelan Felix Hernandez, who grew up nearby, but they haven’t talked much in the last couple of years.

“Everyone knows about him in Venezuela,” he said. “He’s a superstar in Venezuela. I haven’t really had a chance to talk to him (lately). Now we have many years.”

The Mariners, Montero said, have a high profile in Venezuela because of Hernandez, Franklin Gutierrez and former Seattle All-Star Jose Lopez

“People know a lot about Seattle,” he said. “Now it’s going to be better because we’re going to win.”

Both GMs praised the secondary pieces in the trade as well — pitcher Jose Campos going from the Mariners to the Yankees, and right-hander Hector Noesi going from the Yankees to the Mariners. Noesi will compete for a rotation spot, Zduriencik said.

“I’m excited to see what’s going to happen,” he said. “Obviously, we have Felix at the top. There will be a lot of competition for the other spots.”

He mentioned young pitchers Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Erasmo Ramirez being part of that competition.

“We’re not going to replace Michael Pineda right now,” he said. “It would be foolish to think we would. But we’re trying to get a little more balance on the club. That’s the big reason we did the deal. We think eventually, right around the corner, we have quality young arms coming. Whether they get here out of spring training, or in the middle of the year, or next year, I’m not sure. We’ll let it unfold and see what happens.”

Zduriencik declined to answer a question about whether he was still in contact with Scott Boras about Prince Fielder.

(Jesus Montero mugshot by Associated Press)

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