5 Teams That Should Pounce on Chance to Trade for Slugger Jesus Montero
His future role with the M's is uncertain 125 games into a disappointing rookie season and five MLB teams ought to pounce on the chance to buy low.
Questions are abound about the 22-year-old slugger.
Are his New York Yankees stats (.328/.406/.590) or 2012 numbers (.261/.298/.392) more realistic? Can he become a viable defensive catcher? Or at least switch to another position? How's his attitude and his work ethic?
Montero is a potential fit within each of the following organizations. I expect them to inquire, even if he never makes it on the trading block.
Beginning in 2013—when they complete their transition to the American League—the Houston Astros will be in need of a designated hitter.
Coming off consecutive 100-loss seasons, they will still be early in the rebuilding process and disinterested in one-year deals with aging veterans.
The idea of acquiring a pre-arbitration eligible bat like Montero's makes more sense. He'll just be entering his prime during the second half of the decade when the team could be ready to contend again.
Trade activity over the past few years (e.g. Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence, Wandy Rodriguez) has landed the Astros a surplus of pitching prospects. They should be enthused to add Montero in exchange for two arms that aren't on a fast track to the majors.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays hold a $1.5 million team option for retaining Jose Molina next year.
It's likely that they'll exercise it. He's a dependable defender who works particularly well with ace left-hander David Price (proof at Baseball-Reference.com).
However, using him as the primary backstop is too much of a detriment to the lineup. His career triple-slash line of .236/.284/.341 provides a generous projection of how he might produce in his age-38 season.
The Rays are restricted by a tiny payroll, though Jesus Montero won't earn a significant salary in 2013 or 2014 regardless of performance. He could split time between catcher and DH.
Boston Red Sox
All-Star David Ortiz will hit the free-agent market this winter.
The slugger is considering a return to the Boston Red Sox, but he told Rob Bradford of WEEI.com that he expects a multi-year deal and a roster that can contend immediately. Currently, there's no guarantee of either.
Jesus Montero would be a solid insurance policy in case Ortiz signs elsewhere. Also, a nagging Achilles strain—which has limited Big Papi to four plate appearances in the past two months—could lead GM Ben Cherington to import some youth.
Moreover, the catching situation is unsettled with starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia prepared to search for his own long-term contract in the 2013-14 offseason.
Rookie Ryan Lavarnway, 25, hasn't impressed during two brief MLB stints. Montero is a superior heir.
For entirely different reasons, Travis Hafner's and Chris Perez' days in Cleveland Indians uniforms are numbered.
The former is the Tribe's longtime designated hitter. Due to chronic injuries, he has been inactive for nearly half of all Indians games since 2008. Rather than pay $13 million via team option to retain him, expect the front office to opt for the $2.75 million buyout.
Then there's Perez, the outspoken closer whose comments have targeted everybody from Cleveland fans to Indians ownership. He's excelling in the ninth inning, but a change of scenery would be best for all involved.
A simple swap of "Pure Rage" and Jesus Montero could be in the works.
New York Mets
Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweeted that "the right deal" could move first baseman Ike Davis out of the Big Apple.
You may be wondering, "How the heck does that relate to Jesus Montero?" Let me continue.
MyNorthwest.com's Shannon Drayer spoke with Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge about using Jesus Montero at another position. Though he is reportedly "still working on it" by taking grounders at first base in batting practice, the possibility of him eventually achieving defensive versatility wasn't ruled out.
OK, it's not exactly praise, but the New York Mets may prefer Montero's glovework over Lucas Duda's.
Catcher is still the optimal National League fit for the M's extraneous power-hitter. If Kelly Shoppach doesn't re-sign with the Mets, they'll have a vacancy.
All indications are that Montero would be more productive at Citi Field than he has been this summer. The ballpark's dimensions were downsized prior to 2012, so you can forget his struggles with a .593 OPS at Safeco Field .
Granted, the Mets and Yankees aren't interchangeable, but just returning to the city that he never expected to leave could do wonders for Montero's mindset.