For the last few weeks Mariners fans have been all-but-rioting in an effort to get Yuniesky Betancourt out of town. Those people got their wish as the Kansas City Royals traded two minor leaguers to the Mariners in exchange for the enigmatic shortstop.
This is another move in a long line of the Royals acquiring unwanted Mariners, but unlike Gil Meche, Jose Guillen and Willie Bloomquist, Betancourt was traded. The two prospects the Mariners got back, Daniel Cortes and Derrick Saito appear to be future bullpen arms, though Cortes could develop into a starter.
Cortes sounds a lot like Bobby Jenks, who was the subject of an ESPN article when I was in high school. Jenks had a troubled past, a dominating fastball, and a curveball that came out of nowhere to be good, despite poor technique in throwing it.
Jenks actually spent almost his entire minor league career attempting to start, with most of his relief appearances in the minors coming in 2005, the year he’d make his White Sox debut. His problem was that he couldn’t find the strikezone consistently, averaging six walks per nine innings.
Jenks never found control in the minors, and ultimately became the White Sox closer.
Cortes has a checkered past, caught urinating on a fence in public in Arkansas a few weeks ago, but most alarmingly, he was stabbed eight times in a bowling alley parking lot in 2005. The story goes that Cortes was a hero of sorts, attempting to break up a fight between co-workers and gang members, but it seems that trouble tends to find those looking for it.
In that incident however, Cortes was stabbed in his pitching arm, so perhaps control issues may have something to do with his recovery, and his ceiling is higher than it appears.
Either that, or he becomes a viable candidate to replace David Aardsma when the Mariners current closer inevitably prices himself out of a Mariners uniform.
Saito is probably a situational lefty at his peak. He’s short (5’9” tall), and though he appears to have good command he’ll probably have trouble getting right handed batters out at the big league level. He’s got an impressive skill set but his size is very limiting.
The true value in this trade, though the haul was impressive enough, is that it clears up the middle infield. For months there has been speculation about Betancourt’s future by the media, poking and prodding by the coaching staff, all-but-ultimatums from the front office, and that stuff can stop.
Ronny Cedeno will be the team’s starting shortstop until further notice. There is no incumbent in the minor leagues, and while Chris Woodward can play the position, he’s never been any team’s first choice as a long term solution at the position.
Jose Lopez is likely to remain a second base for the rest of the season at least. Though he may be best suited as a third baseman going forward, a mid-season transition seams counter-intuitive.
And with Franklin Gutierrez showing tangible change to go with improved production, the team is clearly able to afford to give up on Betancourt’s offensive potential and keep their heads above water.
But this realistically allows the team to make offensive improvements to their infield without having to shuffle multiple players out of position or put young players on waivers, neither of which are smart baseball moves.
The Mariners have the Pirates top scout scouting their games. Hopefully the team isn’t looking to acquire Jack Wilson, who probably wouldn’t be a huge upgrade by any measure, but Freddy Sanchez offers in interesting option.
Sanchez, a contact hitting second baseman does everything essentially that makes me think that Ichiro is overrated.
He doesn’t walk, doesn’t hit for power, but unlike Ichiro, he doesn’t play a premium offensive position.
Sanchez makes a lot of money, and since his potential departure from Pittsburgh is likely a salary dump, chances are the Mariners won’t be able to get the Pirates to take on much salary, but may not have to give up a lot of very good prospects.
He has however, played most of his professional career with the haphazardly-run Pittsburgh Pirates, and if he’s able to step into a scenario where plate discipline is an emphasis, perhaps he can adapt and perform.
The Mariners have a slew of prospects which don’t fit their present philosophy, potential laden athletes without refined skills, the type of prospects the Pirates love.
Also, the Pirates have a very good pitching prospect, 26-year-old Ian Snell who they seem to have every intention to sell low on. Snell has a physical skill set and track record that could lend themselves to future success, but probably not in a Pirates uniform.
Would a package of Greg Halman, Mark Lowe and Prentice Redman be enough to bring Snell and Sanchez to Seattle? I don’t know, but it is something that is much easier to explore without Betancourt acting as the elephant in the room.
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