My snap judgment opinion is here. Now that I’ve had a chance to sleep on it …
I still say this was a move we HAD to make.
I know there are people out there questioning the haul we got back, considering Pineda’s age, his highly productive rookie season, and the number of years of team control. Apparently this is NOT the Mat Latos trade on the scale of highway robberies. On a similar tack, people are saying, “Why HIM?” As in, “Why now? Why didn’t we just trade Cliff Lee for Montero way back when?”
It’s a defense mechanism. I get it. You spend the last few years hearing about this Pineda kid, waiting anxiously as someone reads you his minor league numbers, and then FINALLY, he gets his shot in Spring Training and blows everyone away with his 98 mile per hour fastball. He’s so good, you can’t even bother with sending him down to Tacoma for a month or two, even though it would mean an extra year of service time (and even though he could REALLY use work on his change-up … but nobody wants to think about that right now; there will always be time later for a change-up to appear). And in the first half of that first season, Pineda is smoking EVERYONE. He’s on a strict pitch count in each game and he’s STILL mowing people down and getting into the 6th and 7th innings!
Pineda is yours. You’ve put in the effort of hearing about him as he grew through the ranks. And now that you got a little taste of what Pineda could possibly become, it’s natural to want to hoard all of that Pineda for yourself.
But, let’s face it, keeping Pineda would have actively hurt this baseball team. There is a need that’s greater than pitching on the Mariners. It’s called “hitting”. You might not know what the word means, because it’s been so long since you’ve seen any of it, so I’ll elaborate briefly: Hitting is how RUNS are scored! We’ll get into “runs” in another post (I don’t want to overwhelm you all at once with these foreign terms). Getting back, you’re asking me, “How in the HELL would keeping Pineda hurt this team? He was an All Star in his rookie season and should only blossom from there!” Well, like I said, this team has a hitting deficiency. If the organization didn’t do anything to bring in an impact bat, the Seattle fans surely would’ve collected together and burned Safeco to the ground in revolt. Unfortunately, in Free Agency, there was only one semi-realistic impact bat that in our wildest dreams MIGHT have signed with Seattle, and his name is Prince Fielder. Except, he’s a total DICK who’s single-handedly holding up the entire Free Agency process as teams wait and see where he’s going to land (and he’s a total DICK because he most likely would never in our wildest dreams opt to sign with Seattle anyway). If you believe this, like I do, then you know there’s only one way to bring in that impact bat our team so desperately needs. Via trade. And who is our Number 1 trade chip? That’s right, Dustin Ackley, but it sure as shit wouldn’t make much sense to trade a bat for another bat when the thing we need is MORE BATS.
A-ha! Who is our Number 2 trade chip? That’s right, Felix Hernandez, but STOP THAT.
Who is our Number 3 trade chip? That’s right, Michael Pineda. With Free Agency being what it was in the 2011/2012 offseason, there was absolutely no other choice. Yeah, we could’ve traded a different hotshot pitching prospect, one who has yet to crack the Majors, for some other type of hitting prospect (or maybe a Major Leaguer of lesser quality). But, the Mariners needed to make a SPLASH. They not only needed to bring in an impact bat, but they needed to prove to the fans that they’re willing to do WHATEVER it takes to turn this thing around and make this a competitive team on the field again.
In other words, they had to get everyone’s attention. Something a little more impactful than buying every M’s fan one of those birthday cards that reads “SEX” in giant letters at the top, followed by, “Now that I’ve got your attention, happy birthday!”
You know how, in television, a show-runner will kill off a major character well before his prime just to prove to the fans that no one is safe on his show? It’s a way to keep the fans on their toes, wondering what’s going to happen NEXT! Well, this is like that. Jackie Z needs us to know that he’s willing to do just about anything to make this team better. Although, if he’s smart, he’ll make Felix Hernandez his Jack Bauer. You gotta know where your bread is buttered, son.
But, look, does it suck that Pineda is gone? Sure it does. I had high hopes for this kid just like everyone else. With Felix as a mentor, who knows how far he could’ve gone? Maybe we could’ve had duelling Cy Young Award Winners on this team! But, he’s gone, and we’ve got another month and change to mourn this loss before we get up off the mat and move on with our lives.
Our lives that now includes Jesus Montero. Getting back to an earlier point, there’s heavy criticism for Jackie Z today as to why we didn’t just take this guy in the Cliff Lee deal. Fans are BIG on the buyer’s remorse after only one season with Justin Smoak. Some are even saying there’s MORE pressure on Smoak to succeed, because essentially he flummoxed us into trading for him when we had Cliff Lee in our back pocket.
That’s fucking preposterous. First of all, if we had traded Lee for Montero in 2010, we STILL would need another bat! And who’s to say Montero wouldn’t have had a similarly erratic rookie campaign in 2011, with the same pressure Smoak had to face in trying to carry a punchless team?
Secondly, I’m not ready to give up on Smoak! The way to look at this trade isn’t to think, “Aww shit, if we would’ve been smarter, we could’ve had Pineda and Montero instead.” The way to think about it is, “Hell yes! We’ve got Smoak and Montero! We’ve got two rising stars who are going to be the backbone of our offense for years to come!”
Because, let’s face it, that’s the way we HAVE to think about it now. Because if these moves don’t work out, and Smoak and/or Montero turn out to be duds, or injury-prone Might-Have-Been’s, then the Seattle Mariners are proper fucked for the NEXT five to ten years.
The truth of the matter is, the pressure is on BOTH of these kids. If they flame out, then you might as well call us the Kansas City Royals.