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July 10, 2009 at 12:05 PM

Yuniesky Betancourt traded to Royals for two minor-league pitchers

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After all that speculation, it became official today. Yuniesky Betancourt has been traded to the Kansas City Royals for Class AA starting pitcher Danny Cortes and Class A relief pitcher Derrick Saito. There were cash considerations involved on the Mariners’ end, GM Jack Zduriencik told me moments ago, declining to go into further detail.
But considering who is coming Seattle’s way, I’m sure the Mariners ate a considerable amount of Betancourt’s money. He is guaranteed about $10 million through the remainder of 2011, including a buyout option for 2012.
Cortes is a big deal, though.
“He’s a big kid with a real good arm,” Zduriencik told me. “We’ve been watching him the past few weeks and were real impressed with what we saw.”

Cortes was Kansas City’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2008, and was rated by Baseball America as the team’s top pitching prospect heading into 2009.
Cortes, 22, was also pronounced the owner of the system’s Best Fastball and Best Curveball.
He’s a 6-foot-6, 216-pound right hander is 6-2 with a 3.12 ERA in his last 11 outings, including 10 starts. He got off to a slow start this season.
He’s also has some off-field troubles, recently. He was arrested for disorderly conduct in Arkansas about two weeks ago for urinating on a fence in public while intoxicated. There were also concerns about some attitude problems within the Royals’ system, but nothing more than the usual immaturity associated with guys in their early 20s eager to advance to the next level,
A few seasons ago, he also became embroiled in controversy when some quasi-nude photos he’d posted on a MySpace page on picked up and run with throughout the internet. The Royals were furious with him at the time.
There are also some highly positive things to be said about the guy and one person I spoke to in Kansas City today defended him to the hilt.
Back in 2005, Cortes was stabbed eight times in a bowling alley parking lot coming to the aid of co-workers from a sporting goods store who had been attacked by gang members.
But those are some of the reasons his stock had fallen a bit in KC and why he was avaliable, He was described to me this afternoon by folks in KC as a guy with tremendous stuff who “needs to put it together a little between the ears.”
Baseball is full of guys like that and some of them go on to be great pitchers. The Mariners just might have timed this right and stumbled on to something very interesting here. For a guy who was done in Seattle the way Betancourt was, that’s quite something. Don’t forget, the Royals have Jose Guillen and Willie Bloomquist, two guys who know Betancourt well and — in Guillen’s case — can seriously bring the hammer down on him if he gets up to his old tricks regarding a lack of focus with the Royals.
I think Betancourt needed a change of scenery and this sounds like a good one for him.
Saito, 21, has allowed just 16 earned runs his last 17 outings after a rough start and has fanned 52 batters in 50 2/3 innings.
“The opportunity presented itself for us to acquire a pair of talented arms and as we move forward, we felt this was the right thing to do at this time,” Zduriencik said in a release, put out by the team just about noon. “We want to thank Yuni for all he has done for the Mariners and wish him the best of luck in Kansas City.”
No, this does not preclude the Mariners from making any further deals with the Pirates, or another MLB team. We went into all that on the previous post. This gets some long-term Betancourt money off the books and frees-up the Mariners to go and get another shortstop, or second baseman. Or both.



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