Ahead of this weekend's series with the Mariners at SAFECO Field, Scott Weber, manager of Lookout Landing, was kind enough to answer some questions about various Yankees/Mariners topics for me. I also answered some questions for him over at Lookout Landing, which you can read here.
Tanya: The Jesus Montero/Michael Pineda trade hasn't panned out for either team just yet. With Montero in Triple-A and Pineda rehabbing from labrum surgery, which player would you prefer to have right now? Which team do you think ultimately comes out on top in the deal?
Scott: I'd take Pineda. Even though labrum injuries are as serious as they get and often players are never the same, Montero's development has been a huge disappointment. Not only has he continued to make fundamental mistakes behind the plate, he actually regressed on offense this year. When the organization decided to give up on him as a catcher, he quickly became a player who has to hit very well in order to be valuable, now that's he's a DH/1B. I don't have faith in his ability to do that, and while age is still on his side, it now looks like he'll be sidelined for an injury and for a PED violation. If this is how bad Jesus Montero was on PEDs, what's he going to be be like after? I have more faith in Pineda to be a useful player going forward than I do Montero.
Tanya: Young players for the Mariners haven't really worked out recently, with Montero, Dustin Ackley, and Justin Smoak all struggling at the major league level. Is it bad luck or something else? What hope do you have that they'll be able to turn it around going forward?
Scott: I think it's a combination of a lot of things. This organization has been really bad at developing hitters over recent years, and it may having something to do with the coaching staff. On the other hand, you see a player like Kyle Seager excelling while Dustin Ackley scuffles, and those two have played for all the same coaches since they were at UNC together. I believe in Dustin Ackley more than I believe in the others, because he actually demonstrated at one point (his rookie year) that he was a good major league baseball player. Ackley's either going to make it as a 2nd baseman or he probably won't make it at all, because I don't think he has the arm strength to play anywhere else other than 1B, and his bat probably will never be strong enough to play there.
Tanya: Which Mariner has been the biggest surprise to you so far this season? Which Mariner has been the biggest disappointment?
Scott: I would say I'm most surprised at Hisashi Iwakuma, simply because we didn't really see enough of him as a starter in 2012 to know he could sustain this. He's been unbelievable, one of the best pitchers in all of baseball over the past calender year. His ability to keep hitters off-balance has generated weak contact all year, and he's missing a bunch of bats too. The Mariners have him signed through 2015 if they want in a deal that looks like a total bargain.
I think Dustin Ackley is the biggest disappointment. He's simply too talented of a hitter to be this bad, and he just hasn't made the neccesary adjustments at the plate since his rookie season. Pitchers figured out the book on him, instead of being the powerful gap hitter he once was, it's been over a year straight of rolling over grounders to 2nd base.
Tanya: Months later, how do you feel about the deal that Seattle gave Felix Hernandez? Has all that money been worth not having to hear about trade proposals all the time, and not worrying about losing the face of your franchise?
Scott: I love Felix because Felix loves Seattle. With any deal as big as he got, there's tremendous risk, especially for a pitcher. But Felix is still just 27, and has already shown that he doesn't need super high velocity to be dominant. Over the past few years his fastball has declined, but his strikeouts have gone up. Extending him was really a move the Mariners had to make, as they've been unsuccessful in holding onto their superstars over the years. Felix said time and time again he wanted to be there, and he backed it up. I certainly will not miss all of the "Seattle should trade Felix" articles written by national media every year, but give it a few years when the Mariners still aren't near the playoffs and they'll start again. Felix has full no-trade protection in his contract, and would be a 10/5 player by 2015 anyways.
Tanya: Yankee fans know all about playing players who should really not be seeing regular playing time in the majors. Do you ever feel a crushing sense of isolation knowing that your favorite baseball team gives playing time to Endy Chavez?
Scott: We have a bit of a soft spot for Endy Chavez in Seattle, because in 2009 he filled in admirably for Ichiro to begin the year. He was a decent part of that team, until Yuniesky Betancourt crashed into him in left field, keeping him out of the majors for over a year. This kind of thing seems to happen every year with Seattle - all that worrying and analysis you do during Spring Training, and then it's June and you're watching Aaron Harang pitch and Endy Chavez, Jason Bay, and Jesus Sucre come up in the order. How did we get here? We might as well embrace Endy Chavez because Franklin Gutierrez is still completely broken, so he's not going anywhere any time soon.
Thanks, Scott! The first game of this four-game set in Seattle begins tonight at 10:00 pm EDT.