The Seattle Mariners played yesterday’s game about as short-handed as you’d ever like to see. They didn’t have time to get Jesus Montero to Minnesota following the trade that sent Dustin Ackley to the Yankees, and so the game was played with only 24 members of the active roster. Also hurting their bench was the unavailability of the injured-but-not-DL’d Robinson Cano and Logan Morrison. 22-man roster! They lost.
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So today there are roster moves. Montero is coming back to town, but he won’t be alone. Joining him on the trip from
Tacoma El Paso to Seattle Minnesota will be Ketel Marte, a top shortstop prospect and the Rainiers’ second-leading hitter (behind only Montero). Montero we expected, but Marte perhaps not so much.
Montero’s season in AAA has only gotten better after his stint in the big leagues, as he currently sports a .346/.388/.551 slash. Even by PCL standards he’s mashing, and has legitimately been one of the very best first basemen in all of MiLB this year. With Morrison hurt/awful, it’d be almost a slap in the face if Montero isn’t given a chance to grab the starting first base job and run with it the rest of the way.
What happens with Marte is another story. Fresh off an appearance at the very bottom of BA’s midseason top 50 prospects list, Marte will be making his first-ever trip to the majors. He’s had a nice year in AAA, though he did miss some time with a broken thumb. But looking back to the time of the injury just shows how badly the Mariners have been itching to get him to the big show:
That injury came right as the Mariners were demoting Chris Taylor to Tacoma – a move which they just so happen to have repeated yesterday evening. So with Taylor off the roster, it looks like Marte’s role is clear – he’ll be Brad Miller‘s backup, with Cano’s injury giving him some early opportunities to grab extra playing time. Except it might be a little more complicated than that, given how Marte’s been used as of late.
Over the last week Marte has been playing a lot of center field. There’s plenty of reason for this, though Miller and Austin Jackson are the two biggest ones. The Mariners already have a good shortstop in place, but they’re two months away from being in the hunt for a center fielder. If Marte is to play in the majors – which he is, possibly as soon as today – then they’re going to need to put him somewhere. You don’t DH a gifted athlete like that.
He’s still just getting his feet wet out there, of course, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Marte grab his share of outfield starts to go with his backup/fill-in duty around the middle of the infield. He’s versatile enough that he’ll be able to plug multiple holes with relative ease. The team’s likely to sell it as him being eased in as a bench piece, but from the get-go I suspect he’ll be quite a bit more than that.
But is he ready? In only 287 plate appearances with Tacoma this year Marte is hitting .314/.359/.410, which translates to a 107 wRC+. That’s barely above average in an extreme hitter’s environment, which doesn’t lend a lot of credence to the idea that he’s ready to rake in the majors. But this guy was always going to be underpowered – a high slugging percentage was never going to be Marte’s calling card.
For the role he seems destined for sure, he’s ready. He’ll bounce around in the majors, getting his reps on defense while getting a chance to see if his excellent eye at the plate can produce results against MLB pitching. If it works, then great, he’s a big leaguer already. If it doesn’t the team can easily swap him and Taylor out for each other. There’s not a lot of risk here. This isn’t really a classic Jack Zduriencik “rush job,” even if it is a little suspicious.
Jesus Montero is back in the majors, Ketel Marte is now in the majors. These moves might make the Mariners better, but whether or not that’s the case they definitely make them more interesting. And with the team eleven games under .500, that’s probably all we have left to hope for.