That’s the headline, anyway. The Mariners also received minor league pitcher Paul Blackburn, and gave away minor league pitcher Jordan Pries.
When you think about the weird journey of Mike Montgomery – a former first round pick who couldn’t quite make the jump to the Bigs, traded to Seattle for Erasmo Ramirez of all people, coming into Spring Training this year without a spot on the team, then winning a bullpen role thanks to injuries and his own step forward in development – this really feels like the organization selling high on a middling prospect.
When I think about any trade, I think about the ceilings of all involved – particularly the stars of the trade. What’s Mike Montgomery’s ceiling? If his performance this year is any indication, he could be a back-of-the-rotation starter, or he could be a pretty solid reliever. If he puts it all together? Maybe he could become a #3 starter, but if that happens, we’re probably a ways away. Fortunately for the Cubs, they’ll have lots of time to get to know him. While I believe he’s out of options, Montgomery still has 2 years of team control over him, followed by 3 more arbitration years after that. When you consider his salary this year is only $515,000, there is potentially GREAT value in this guy. The Cubs just got a young, cost-controlled left-handed pitcher who can start, who can relieve, and who theoretically is still getting better.
Then again, he could just be who he is. An okay lefty, with okay stuff, but not all that special. He’ll have good years and bad years, he’ll eat up innings for you probably (if you stick him in the rotation), but he might very well be an underwhelming starter. At which point, the Cubs traded away an even younger, more cost-controlled, potential middle-of-the-order bat, for a lefty long reliever who will most likely never close out your games.
From a Mariners perspective, losing Montgomery hurts way more in the short term. In the long term, I don’t know how much I’d trust handing him a rotation spot. I think we could do better, and I think it wouldn’t be that hard. In the short term, though, I’m on record as saying he’s probably the third-best starter we have right now, considering Walker’s injury issues won’t be resolving until after the season ends (and it appears he’ll be playing through this foot issue until the offseason, when he has surgery to repair it), and he’s easily our second-best reliever. When you figure the Mariners’ greatest need is, was, and will always be pitching for the rest of this season, it’s a lot to stomach. In that sense, it almost DOES feel like the Mariners are being sellers.
Of course, I can’t really make a definitive claim on that score until I see what other moves the Mariners end up making. This almost certainly will NOT be the only trade we see from the Mariners this year.
In return, we get this guy. Dan Vogelbach. A lot of people are saying he’s a left-handed hitting Billy Butler. Technically, I suppose the kid can play first base, but it doesn’t sound like anyone really trusts him to stick there. Which means his future likely rests at designated hitter (or, in some sort of rotation between the two). The Mariners, as you know, already have a pretty awesome DH in Nelson Cruz. But, since Cruz can ostensibly play right field, you justify the trade by telling everyone that, and downplaying how this hurts your outfield defense. You’re robbing Peter to pay Paul one way or the other. Either you struggle with first base defense, or you struggle with right field defense. I don’t know what’s worse, but then again, I’ve never seen Vogelbach play.
The kid has a quality bat, though! Where have we heard that before? Oh, that’s right, with every single 1B/DH prospect Jackie Z brought in here! But, while Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero, Logan Morrison, and others were all pretty one-dimensional, Vogelbach’s bat looks like it can legitimately play at the Major League level. Montero and LoMo were always prone to being handcuffed by same-handed pitchers; they also struggled to take a walk and avoid swinging at those low-and-away breaking balls. Vogelbach appears to have a good grasp of the strike zone, and looks like he can hit both lefties and righties. High walk rates and low strikeout rates are EXACTLY what I want to see out of a guy in AAA who is just itching to bust through in the Majors.
As I talked about yesterday, it would seem Adam Lind’s days are numbered with the team, just as he’s starting to really assert himself and become the player we all thought we were getting. Part of me hopes that’s not necessarily the case, as part of me still holds out the delusion that the Mariners will be playing for something important in September, and he could be a big part of that. Trading Lind would be another telltale sign of the Mariners being sellers, as you’re swapping out a trusted veteran on an upswing for a kid who’s never played at this level before. Highly-rated prospect or not, Vogelbach is going to have some growing pains to start. I almost hope he just stays in Tacoma until September call-ups, but that’s a conversation for another time.
Bat-First, or rather, Bat-Only players like Vogelbach tend to give me the willies. If I knew without a doubt we’d be getting the next Edgar Martinez, and we’d just plug him into the DH role for the next 15 years, that’s one thing. But, to be a valuable player in this league, when you’re not playing a defensive position, you REALLY need to hit the fuck out of the ball. You need to put up crazy-high batting averages, get on base a lot, AND you need to consistently hit for power. 20-30 homers per year and 30-40 doubles per year. If he comes here and is just sorta okay, but maybe hits .270, struggles against lefties, and is on the lower end of those power numbers, then what have you got? A clogged artery in the middle of your hitting lineup completely blocking your roster flexibility – and one who needs a platoon partner to boot!
I’m not saying that’s what he’ll be, but these ARE the Seattle Mariners. The same cursed franchise that drafts the greatest prospect we’ve seen around here since Adam Jones, in Kyle Lewis, who proceeds to tear up his knee one month into his professional career and is out for the year, if not longer. Great. I’m sure a massively fucked up knee won’t completely sap all his speed and athleticism …
Also kind of annoying about this Vogelbach move is that he also blocks some of our prospects coming up through the minors who are ALSO predominantly limited defensively, but have big swingin’ bats (I’m looking at you, D.J. Peterson). Maybe this opens us up to other trade possibilities, though, particularly if Vogelbach makes it big in the Majors.
I have nothing to say about the swapped minor league pitchers. Neither one looks like much of a promising prospect. Regarding the main parts of the trade, I guess I’ll treat it like I treat every deal: clench my buttocks and hope for the best. It’s in the hands of the baseball gods now. Or, I guess, to be more accurate, considering how these types of trades normally go for the Mariners, it’s in the hands of the baseball Satans.