BY Art Thiel 11:52AM 01/24/2012

Thiel: Noesi a gem? Maybe — if Mariners keep him

The pitcher in the Montero deal might be a good one, but in recent years that has meant trading such a talent for more bats that fail to produce anything but the worst offense in baseball.

Hector Noesi might just be good enough, in the Mariners tradition, to get himself traded. / Wiki Commons

By now, the dwindling knot of fans still caring about the Mariners has examined Jesus Montero nearly down to the colonoscopy and found the 22-year-old to be an exciting young hitting prospect.

Underscoring the judgment was none other than Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who told reporters in a New York teleconference Monday that Montero “may very well be the best player I’ve traded.”

BUT (there’s always upper-case BUTs when talk turns to Mariners trades) can he catch?

“That will address itself in spring training,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said in his own teleconference Monday. “We scouted Jesus for a number of years — we knew him as an amateur in Venezuela. We’re going to give him the time for him to be all he can be. He will be a very good offensive player and get every opportunity to be a good catcher. We like who we have.”

Which is a magnificent ramble to get to “no,” as a way of answering  the question of whether he’s a major league catcher.

But that’s OK. Four power ABs a game as designated hitter for such a woebegone offensive outfit as the Mariners works. It’s four more than they had, and they already hired a decent platoon catcher, John Jaso, to reduce the numbers of games by arguably the worst defensive catcher in MLB, Miguel Olivo.

What I’m wondering about is the pitcher in the deal, Hector Noesi. His resume reads well. He split the season between the Yankees and Triple A and was said to be the Yankees’ No. 7 prospect overall and possessed the best control in the Yankees system, and had 45 strikeouts in 56 innings with the big club. A Dominican who turns 25 Thursday and is under Mariners contractual control for at least six seasons, he’s already being called the “hidden gem” of the deal by some scouts.

“I’m excited about him,” Zduriencik said. “I’d be foolish to think we would replace Michael Pineda with this trade. But as we went through our options, we hope he’ll be a starter, which means we get two big leaguers in this deal.”

That’s the scary part. Noesi might be good enough to get traded.

As was Pineda (9-10 record, 3.74 ERA in 2011).

As was Cliff Lee (17-8, 2.40).

As was Brandon Morrow (11-11, 4.72)

As was Doug Fister (8-1, 1.89 ERA in 11 starts in Detroit after trade from Seattle).

That, friends, is a good starting rotation — 45-30 with an ERA around 3.50. The Mariners have traded all that quality mound labor for a proven closer (Morrow for Brandon League), a No. 5 starter Blake Beavan (Lee trade with Texas), and a lot of guys with potential.

Not to dismiss Justin Smoak, Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Chance Ruffin and others acquired in the transactions, but like Montero, they are young guys who haven’t yet produced at the big-league level. Unlike the players for whom they were traded, they have lower ceilings.

For a decade, that’s what the Mariners have done. Trading one extra large for three mediums has gotten them virtually nowhere. And now, with the Angels and Rangers having amped up their financial games considerably, the Mariners have sent away their biggest young asset, Pineda, who at least had a full year at the top to allow the Yankees to see he was worth giving up on a talented DH, for the unproven.

Unless Prince Fielder shows up shortly sporting a compass rose on his hat, the Mariners are betting  everything that all this potential is going to show up in 2012 to stem the wholesale fan disaffection. That is asking much.

Naturally, Zduriencik disagreed.

“We brought a lot back for those players,” he said, mentioning League, the three players for Lee and reliever Mark Lowe, the four players for Doug Fister and reliever David Pauley and, of course, Montero and Noesi. “We want to to do deals for players who will be with us for a long time. Some still need time to grow and improve.”

But hasn’t that always been the case for the last decade? They grow, they improve — they get traded.  Zduriencik’s remark about wanting young talent the club can control for six years is true for every club, but it’s especially true for a franchise that is on its heels as their rivals blow past them.

The Mariners won’t pay the money to get well in veteran free agency, so they spend what resources they have hoping to get lucky with Kevin Millwood, Oliver Perez and the occasional Japanese semi-star.

I don’t blame Zduriencik for hard-selling his deals; only his entire job depends on it. But he’s up against a pile of skepticism much higher and darker than the dirty ice mounds along the sides of our village roads.

Because so many transactions have not paid off since the freak year of 116 wins more than decade ago, and because every season begins with some arduous workaround on huge, under-productive contracts (Carlos Silva, Milton Bradley, Chone Figgins, Ichiro), the GM in a pitcher-friendly park is forced to throw talented pitchers under the tires just for traction, not necessarily to get down the road fast.

Every school child understands the triteness about having to give quality to get quality. But the theory in Seattle has yet to produce quality in large doses, even though large doses have been provided.

Even Pineda seemed to recognized it, although his struggles with English are probably the source of a funny line at his press conference that caused knowing chuckles in New York.

“I never thought,” he said, “I would become a New York Yankee so early into my career.”

Those of us who watched the Mariners’ sad saga unfold over the years might respond: What took you so long?


YourThoughts

  • Stevenkjesionowski

    I have to disagree on this a bit, because of the difference between the way Jack has gone about his trades and pickups vs his predecessor. Bavasi was terrible at gauging his talent, which is why he stripped our farm system of young position players for a DH platoon and a pitcher with injury problems. We didn’t have a strong farm system when Jack got here. And since no free agent hitters want to come here willingly (see Prince Fielder, who basically waited to see who’d injure themselves in freak training accidents rather than ink a deal with the M’s), rebuilding the offensive side of the farm has to be a priority so those hitters have no choice.

    I don’t believe the M’s will be good this year. I do believe they’ll be good in 2013 and beyond as our young hitters become vets.

  • Stevenkjesionowski

    I have to disagree on this a bit, because of the difference between the way Jack has gone about his trades and pickups vs his predecessor. Bavasi was terrible at gauging his talent, which is why he stripped our farm system of young position players for a DH platoon and a pitcher with injury problems. We didn’t have a strong farm system when Jack got here. And since no free agent hitters want to come here willingly (see Prince Fielder, who basically waited to see who’d injure themselves in freak training accidents rather than ink a deal with the M’s), rebuilding the offensive side of the farm has to be a priority so those hitters have no choice.

    I don’t believe the M’s will be good this year. I do believe they’ll be good in 2013 and beyond as our young hitters become vets.

  • Anonymous

    Thiel is an idiot trying to be the naysayer to get some press.  Jack Z has not been perfect, but he’s practically rebuilding the team from the ground up.  The farm system is now very highly rated among people who follow those things.  Bavasi was the worst GM is sports and he gutted the talent on this team.  We now have 3-4 promising hitters and 3-4 very promising pitchers.  Thiel lists Cliff Lee as an example?  Seriously?  We never had a chance to keep him, so we traded him for value.  And Brandom Morrow?  Good riddance. 

  • carbidedrill

    Thiel is an idiot trying to be the naysayer to get some press.  Jack Z has not been perfect, but he’s practically rebuilding the team from the ground up.  The farm system is now very highly rated among people who follow those things.  Bavasi was the worst GM is sports and he gutted the talent on this team.  We now have 3-4 promising hitters and 3-4 very promising pitchers.  Thiel lists Cliff Lee as an example?  Seriously?  We never had a chance to keep him, so we traded him for value.  And Brandom Morrow?  Good riddance. 

  • Tian Biao

    carbidedrill, let me ask you something: when you go to Safeco, are YOU excited about watching Charlie Furbush start a game? How about Beavan? Is that fun? Are you excited about watching Smoak, Casper Wells, Saunders, and a bunch of other prospects take the field so we can see if they’re any good? Well, I’m not. Especially when they play 18 times against Yu Darvish and the Rangers, and 18 times against Pujols and C.J. Wilson and the Angels. Damn, i’m tired of prospects, and i’m tired of losing.

    So yes, and in reply to StevenK too, there is hope that Jack Z is better at his job than Bavasi (he could not possibly be worse), and I sure hope he is. But it still means another year of 90-some losses.

    • Anonymous

      Zduriencik is so much better than Bavasi it’s not even funny. 

      Remember these names, because in about 24 months you are going to be sitting in a very crowded Safeco Field cheering like hell for these guys:  Hultzen, Paxton, Walker, Hernandez, Montero, Smoak, Ackley, Franklin, Francisco Martinez, Liddi, Catricala, Pryor, Robinson, Chiang.

  • Tian Biao

    carbidedrill, let me ask you something: when you go to Safeco, are YOU excited about watching Charlie Furbush start a game? How about Beavan? Is that fun? Are you excited about watching Smoak, Casper Wells, Saunders, and a bunch of other prospects take the field so we can see if they’re any good? Well, I’m not. Especially when they play 18 times against Yu Darvish and the Rangers, and 18 times against Pujols and C.J. Wilson and the Angels. Damn, i’m tired of prospects, and i’m tired of losing.

    So yes, and in reply to StevenK too, there is hope that Jack Z is better at his job than Bavasi (he could not possibly be worse), and I sure hope he is. But it still means another year of 90-some losses.

    • rightwingrick

      Zduriencik is so much better than Bavasi it’s not even funny. 

      Remember these names, because in about 24 months you are going to be sitting in a very crowded Safeco Field cheering like hell for these guys:  Hultzen, Paxton, Walker, Hernandez, Montero, Smoak, Ackley, Franklin, Francisco Martinez, Liddi, Catricala, Pryor, Robinson, Chiang.

  • 2001

    I think Thiel is right and several of you miss his point.  His point is that even when we have some players that are good, we trade them because we’re not willing to spend $$$ to improve in any other way.  It doesn’t matter how good our farm system is under this model and it’s not about winning.  Good to great pitching is a precious commodity and we keep trading it away.  Once we have a few kids step up and the rest wash out, those few will become trade bait to show that management is “doing something”.  Several of our kids could be decent this year or next, but I don’t think many of you are appreciating what an offensive hole we are in.  You can now add to that several question marks for pitching.  The Angels and Rangers want to win.  The Mariners just want to exist, although it appears increasingly likely that this wheel spinning and avoidance of bigger, longer contracts is to help sell the team.

    • Anonymous

      Great hitting catchers are even more scarce than top young pitching (remember Jason Veritek?).

  • 2001

    I think Thiel is right and several of you miss his point.  His point is that even when we have some players that are good, we trade them because we’re not willing to spend $$$ to improve in any other way.  It doesn’t matter how good our farm system is under this model and it’s not about winning.  Good to great pitching is a precious commodity and we keep trading it away.  Once we have a few kids step up and the rest wash out, those few will become trade bait to show that management is “doing something”.  Several of our kids could be decent this year or next, but I don’t think many of you are appreciating what an offensive hole we are in.  You can now add to that several question marks for pitching.  The Angels and Rangers want to win.  The Mariners just want to exist, although it appears increasingly likely that this wheel spinning and avoidance of bigger, longer contracts is to help sell the team.

    • rightwingrick

      Great hitting catchers are even more scarce than top young pitching (remember Jason Veritek?).

  • Bryan

    Art, do you not have an email address anymore?  I can’t always get a message across in 140 characters, nor do I use Twitter in the first place.  Well… After looking at this trade again I’m pretty sure we got fleeced.  Look at Pineda’s first full year of service compared to Pedro Martinez’ first three seasons.  The stats are almost eerily similar.  WHIP: Pedro over first 3 seasons:  1.1507 – Pineda: 1.099 (better than any of Pedro’s first three).  H/9 IP: Pineda 7.0, Pedro 7.47.  HR/9: Pineda 0.9, Pedro 0.83.  BB/9: Pedro: 2.93, Pineda: 2.90.  SO/9: Pineda 9.1, Pedro 8.67.  Add to that the fact that Pineda is big and strong and comes off as a very mature young man, and I have to say the Mariners got absolutely fleeced… AGAIN.

  • Bryan

    Art, do you not have an email address anymore?  I can’t always get a message across in 140 characters, nor do I use Twitter in the first place.  Well… After looking at this trade again I’m pretty sure we got fleeced.  Look at Pineda’s first full year of service compared to Pedro Martinez’ first three seasons.  The stats are almost eerily similar.  WHIP: Pedro over first 3 seasons:  1.1507 – Pineda: 1.099 (better than any of Pedro’s first three).  H/9 IP: Pineda 7.0, Pedro 7.47.  HR/9: Pineda 0.9, Pedro 0.83.  BB/9: Pedro: 2.93, Pineda: 2.90.  SO/9: Pineda 9.1, Pedro 8.67.  Add to that the fact that Pineda is big and strong and comes off as a very mature young man, and I have to say the Mariners got absolutely fleeced… AGAIN.

  • HungerGatherer

    If Montero was so valuable to the Yanks he’d still be there. Posada just retired. They have an aging roster and could plug that guy into at least two spots other than catcher.

    Jackie Z is doing his damndest to spin this – but it remains a bad trade for the M’s.

    • Anonymous

      Disagree completely,  both teams filled needs with trade of straight high-end talent, and we have plenty of pitching depth coming up (Walker #1 pick, Hultzen, #1 pick, Paxton, #1 pick (Toronto).

  • HungerGatherer

    If Montero was so valuable to the Yanks he’d still be there. Posada just retired. They have an aging roster and could plug that guy into at least two spots other than catcher.

    Jackie Z is doing his damndest to spin this – but it remains a bad trade for the M’s.

    • rightwingrick

      Disagree completely,  both teams filled needs with trade of straight high-end talent, and we have plenty of pitching depth coming up (Walker #1 pick, Hultzen, #1 pick, Paxton, #1 pick (Toronto).

  • Anonymous

    Art, I’ve been watching the M’s since they arrived via lawsuit, and I think it’s abundantly clear that they have acquired more high-end young talent in the last three years than at any time in our long, difficult Mariner’s history.

    To date this year, at least three different organizations that rate minor league talent have placed the Mariner organization in the “top ten”, and two of those put us first, and fourth, of all major league teams. And that was BEFORE we picked up Montero!

    Let’s go position by position:

    C  Jesus Montero, top catching prospect in the game
    1B  Justin Smoak, #1 draft pick, switch hitter, numbers better each year (even with multiple injuries)
    2B  Dustin Ackley, #1 draft pick, consistent agreement that he’s star material
    SS  Nick Franklin, supplemental #1 pick, named by many scouting organizations as top talent; Carlos Triunfel
    3B  Francisco Martinez, Detroit’s overall #4 prospect in their entire system at the time of the trade; Alex Liddi; Kyle Seager
    LF  Vinnie Catricala, Mariner’s minor league player of the year has hit over .300/.360 at every stop; Mike Carp; Casper Wells
    CF  Gutierrez only 28 (and coming back from 1 1/2 years of solved health problems)
    RF  Chih-Hsien Chiang; Johermyn Chavez

    SP  Tiajuan Walker, #1 draft pick
    SP  Danny Hultzen, #1 draft pick
    SP  James Paxton, #1 draft pick (Toronto)
    SP  Blake Beavan, #1 draft pick (Texas)
    SP  Felix Hernandez
    SP Erasmo Ramirez, won Venezuela League rookie level triple crown of pitching in 2009

    Frankly, I don’t think the future has ever looked any brighter from the standpoint of up and coming young talent as it does right now.

  • rightwingrick

    Art, I’ve been watching the M’s since they arrived via lawsuit, and I think it’s abundantly clear that they have acquired more high-end young talent in the last three years than at any time in our long, difficult Mariner’s history.

    To date this year, at least three different organizations that rate minor league talent have placed the Mariner organization in the “top ten”, and two of those put us first, and fourth, of all major league teams. And that was BEFORE we picked up Montero!

    Let’s go position by position:

    C  Jesus Montero, top catching prospect in the game
    1B  Justin Smoak, #1 draft pick, switch hitter, numbers better each year (even with multiple injuries)
    2B  Dustin Ackley, #1 draft pick, consistent agreement that he’s star material
    SS  Nick Franklin, supplemental #1 pick, named by many scouting organizations as top talent; Carlos Triunfel
    3B  Francisco Martinez, Detroit’s overall #4 prospect in their entire system at the time of the trade; Alex Liddi; Kyle Seager
    LF  Vinnie Catricala, Mariner’s minor league player of the year has hit over .300/.360 at every stop; Mike Carp; Casper Wells
    CF  Gutierrez only 28 (and coming back from 1 1/2 years of solved health problems)
    RF  Chih-Hsien Chiang; Johermyn Chavez

    SP  Tiajuan Walker, #1 draft pick
    SP  Danny Hultzen, #1 draft pick
    SP  James Paxton, #1 draft pick (Toronto)
    SP  Blake Beavan, #1 draft pick (Texas)
    SP  Felix Hernandez
    SP Erasmo Ramirez, won Venezuela League rookie level triple crown of pitching in 2009

    Frankly, I don’t think the future has ever looked any brighter from the standpoint of up and coming young talent as it does right now.

  • Chef_rickbond

    BYE!

  • RadioGuy

    “One of the NFL’s most reliable players?”  Marshawn Lynch?  Really?  The same Marshawn Lynch that Buffalo was willing to let go with over a year on his contract because he was such an underachiever for the Bills?  The same Marshawn Lynch who was a dog in Seattle until he began his salary drive the last few weeks of the 2011 season?  That Marshawn Lynch?

    Hey, if he plays as hard now that he’s got $18 million guaranteed, I’ll come back here to SPNW and publicly make a mea culpa.  I’m just not as convinced as others seem to be that he’ll put up the same numbers now that he’s got the kind of contract he wanted.  Benoit Benjamin used to do the same thing:  Big Ben would sign a contract for 3 years and play like Fido for the first 2-and-a-half years, then play well enough down the stretch to get another big 3-year deal the following offseason.

  • Grover

    Running backs are a dime a dozen.  Giving any running back a big guaranteed contract is stupid, let alone an imminently ordinary running back like Marshawn Lynch.

    Spend your big bucks on linemen, receivers, and a quarterback.  Don’t waste money, especially guaranteed money, on a running back.

    Stupid mistake.

  • Steverudman

    You are absolutely correct on all counts.