The seal has finally been broken. Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto has made his first trade of the 2020 off-season.
Today, Jerry Dipoto formally introduced himself to Texas Rangers GM Chris Young and the two got along so well, they decided to make a trade. The Rangers have dealt their closer, Rafael Montero, to the Mariners in exchange for Jose Corniell and a player to be named later. The deal is the first “major acquisition” to what Dipoto promised would be a revamped bullpen. But what did Seattle get?
Rafael Montero is a 30-year-old reliever with two years of club control remaining. He features a hard four-seam fastball that averages 96 MPH as his primary offering, throwing it 47.8% of the time. He also throws a hard, 94 MPH sinker 24.2% of the time and a changeup that he’ll mix in just over 20% of the time. Montero began his big league career as a starting pitcher but was pushed out of a talented Mets rotation in 2014.
Montero would be kicked between AAA and the big leagues for most of the next three seasons before missing 2018 with Tommy John Surgery. He found his way to the Rangers for the 2019 season and as a full-time reliever, Montero began to blossom, posting a 2.48 ERA, a 3.83 FIP, a 10.55 K/9, and a 1.55 BB/9 in 29 innings. He returned in 2020 and eventually took over the closer duties while posting a 9.68 K/9, a 3.06 BB/9, a 4.08 ERA, and a 3.70 FIP while collecting eight saves. Over the past two seasons, Montero has posted a 162 ERA+, a 10.2 K/9, and a 2.1 BB/9. It’s not difficult to see why the Mariners like Montero.
To grab Montero, the Mariners had to part with talented teenage pitcher Jose Corniell, a price that will surely make some fans squirm. But while Corniell is talented, he has yet to pitch in organized professional baseball, has some mechanical issues he’ll need to address, and is likely at least four seasons away from the big leagues.
What this price tag may suggest is the Mariners are either going to be aggressive in the trade market, or they believe they can extract even more value from Montero than anybody else has, a gamble that has paid off in the past. Montero may be the favorite to be named the closer entering Spring Training, as his ability to miss bats and throw strikes gives him a higher floor than other options currently available.
One other thing to note, Jeff Passan of ESPN did report that the team is interested in reliever Blake Treinen, while Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN Seattle notes that the team has been talking with former Los Angeles Angels righty Kenyon Middleton. Seattle is still focusing on their bullpen and we may have more moves to react to relatively soon. Stay tuned.