Seattle Mariners Spotlight —  Jesus Montero

Montero Fighting For His Career This Spring

One of the most interesting battles to watch this spring as the Seattle Mariners get set for Cactus League play will be the battle at first base.  While Adam Lind will get virtually all of the playing time at first base when the Mariners face a right hander, it’s a safe bet he’ll be on the bench when a tough southpaw takes the mound.

That means someone is going to have to occupy the pillow in front of the M’s dugout other than Lind for a fair amount of games in 2016.  The Mariners new GM, Jerry Dipoto, has now made it quite clear that those ABs are up for grabs this year during spring training.

40lbs lighter and hitting better than ever was the story for Montero in 2015.

40lbs lighter and hitting better than ever was the story for Montero in 2015.

Dipoto recently signed Korean slugger Dae-Ho Lee to a minor league contract.  Lee is a big (6’4, 280lbs) and powerful swinging (31 homers in Japan last year) right handed first baseman.  He certainly fits the mold if you are looking for a guy who can take on tough southpaws and play first base.

Lee’s contract could be worth up to $4 million for the 2016 season assuming he can make the 25 man roster out of spring training.  The fact that it’s a minor league deal for Lee, however, signals clearly that both Jesus Montero and Gabby Sanchez have a chance to play their way into a major league job with a solid spring effort.

In the case of Montero, it’s do or die time.  After battling and defeating his weight issues during the last offseason, Montero put together the best AAA season of his career in 2015 finishing with a .355/.398/.569 slash line.  Against left handed pitching, Montero was even more impressive at AAA as he slashed his way to a monstrous .432/.644/1.076 line.

Even with numbers like that at AAA, Dipoto still though it necessary to challenge the young first baseman and brought in Lee to compete with him for the bench/platoon role at first.  For Montero, this spring will be the most important ever in his career as a result.

Even at 34 years of age, Dae Ho Lee is still a rookie but will provide veteran competition to Montero

Even at 34 years of age, Dae Ho Lee is still a rookie but will provide veteran competition to Montero

If Montero has a solid spring and continues to hit the ball the way he did last year, the M’s have the luxury of keeping Lee in the minor leagues thanks to his minor league contract.  On the other hand, If Montero struggles or chokes in the face of the competition he could be on his way out of town.

2016 marks the end of the road for Montero in terms of being able to swap back and forth between Tacoma and Seattle.  He is out of minor league options.  The former catcher will have to not only prove himself during the spring games of Peoria but also maintain his numbers at the big league level in order to stick around.

If he falters, the Mariners will have no choice but to either trade him or slap the DFA label on him and say goodbye.  Given that the rest of the league knows Montero’s options situation, it’s unlikely the M’s would find a trading partner that would be willing to give up much of anything.

Maybe it’s the soft spot in my heart for catchers, even former ones like Montero, but I think this is going to be the year Montero silences most of his critics.   I look for Montero to have a big spring and a solid 2016 season.

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About Brian Scott

Husband, Philosopher, Animal Rights Advocate, and Author Brian is a Spokane native and Gonzaga University grad. Seahawks, Mariners, GU Hoops and Cougar football are the teams that drive his passion for sports. You can catch him on twitter too! Connect with Brian today!
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