Managed to catch a goodly chunk of the Felix return on the radio during my interminable drive home from Bellingham. It was another nice comeback and a really important win for the M’s. Heard the ding of a text message from my friend Todd as I was driving, reporting Mike Montgomery’s trade.to the Cubs. Todd was excited about the deal-and I became desperate to learn what we’d acquired.
Let me be clear-I believe Montgomery has been the most consistent pitcher for the M’s this year. Though he’s had a couple of rough games out of the bullpen (compared to the rest of the guys, a couple is like microscopic,) but he’s pitched short, middle and long relief. He’s started a couple of games and been okay. He also has the virtue of being young, cheap and controllable, fitting G.M. Jerry DiPoto’s criteria of young, athletic and controllable.
It’s also really tough to see the Mariners give up pitching, especially good pitching. The M’s remain within striking distance of the second AL Wild Card, but that can only happen if the M’s either acquire more pitching, or wave a magic wand over the the guys they have. So tossing AAA pitcher Jordan Priess into a deal that brings no major league ready pitching back is a bit of a head scratcher. Unless, of course, management is throwing in the towel and is reassessing this team, positioning it for next year. Of course, they would never say that.
This was a trade, so the M’s actually did get something back in return. The headliner is AAA slugger Dan Vogelbach. The big left-hander is hitting .318/..425/..548. Yes, he is hitting the shit out of the ball at Iowa City. Why isn’t he a Cubbie? Well, dude is 6’0″ and weighs 250 lbs, and can only play 1b and DH. His route to the majors is blocked by Anthony Rizzo. at 1b, and, uh, there is no DH in the National League. The Cubs also included AA RHP Paul Blackburn, a starter, in the deal. Blackburn was selected 56th overall by the Cubs in the 2012 draft. At AA Tennessee he’s started 18 games, thrown 102.1 innings, and struck out 72. He’s 6-4 with a 3.17 ERA and 1.192 WHIP. Not bad.
I know I’m tired from a week at journalism camp, but this deal doesn’t do it for me. Look, Vogelbach has demonstrated that he is a helluva minor league hitter. He’s shown he has power and on-base ability everywhere he’s gone. But he’s also a really big guy. In 2014 MLB.com carried an article about Vogelbach’s efforts to lose weight. Clearly his size is an issue. He is likely a candidate to play DH. I feel like an awful person for even raising this, but didn’t we just try this with Jesus Montero? How does this fill the goal of becoming more athletic by the M’s? Why do I feel like this guys is Jack Zdurencik’s wet dream?
If Vogelbach’s route to the majors is blocked with the Cubs, what about the M’s? The Mariners have a platoon at first base with Adam Lind and Dae-ho Lee. Yes, they are each ten years older Vogelbach. And Lind has trouble getting on base. But the M’s also owe him the balance of an $8 million dollar contract. And who tied the game today with an opposite field home run? Who has a pair of walk-off dingers? Yes, Adam Lind in all of his .261 OBP glory has had some pretty big hits for this team. At DH, that Cruz fellow, with cameo performances by Lee, seems to have the inside track on the vast majority of at bats, especially with the return of Nori Aoki, to fill Cruz’s role in the outfield. And what does this mean for minor league first baseman D.J. Peterson, an M’s first round draft pick, having a terrific year in the minors after struggling the past couple of seasons?
I dunno, maybe there is another shoe that’s gonna drop and in a few days there will be another deal set up by this one. But it’s hard to see the team’s most consistent pitcher traded when it’s clear this team needs more pitching, not less, if it has any hope of making the playoffs. Maybe if they got back someone filling a clear position of need for now or in the immediate future I’d feel better about it. I know Dipoto went on the radio and talked it up, but right at this moment I’m feeling the best get in this deal is Blackburn.