Jesus Montero, First Baseman
Mike Carp is going on the DL with a hip issue, so the Mariners are going to have to call someone up from the minors in order to fill the gap. It will probably just be Justin Smoak, even though he hasn’t hit very well in Tacoma, since the organization isn’t exactly teeming with first base options in the high minors. In talking to Wedge about the various options, Shannon Drayer reports that Wedge was asked about using Jesus Montero at first base – his answer:
“Not yet, he’s still working on it,” he answered. “We are not going to put him out there until we feel he is ready for it.”
Montero has been taking ground balls at first base in batting practice for a while now, but this is the first public confirmation that the Mariners are working towards using him as a first baseman. The writing has been on the wall for a while, though. While Montero has caught both of the last two games, 14 of his previous 17 outings had come at DH, and the selection of Mike Zunino (and subsequent promotion to Double-A) suggests that the Mariners have already determined that Montero’s catching career is going to be short lived. Whether they intend for him to remain a part-time catcher next year or not, the reality is that his long term future is a 1B/DH, and he’s more valuable to the organization if he can play first than if he can’t.
With Carp hurt and Smoak still broken, the final six weeks of the season is the perfect time to look at Montero at first base. If he’s not ready yet, that’s fine, but they can speed up the clock and give him more serious reps at first base before games in order to get him ready to play there, and personally, I’d like to see Montero play first base for the entire month of September. That gives them a couple of weeks to get him comfortable over there, and they can patch things together with Smoak/Ackley/whoever for a little while until he’s deemed to be ready.
It’s where he’s going to end up. There is no obvious long term first baseman in the organization currently playing the position. They have an opportunity to give Montero some work at first base in a lost season, where he can get some of the learning curve out of the way and hopefully be ahead of the game, rather than starting the transition next spring.
Hopefully, the organization realizes that they have an opportunity here to get a jump start on a switch they’re going to have to make soon anyway. With Jaso around as a quality stop-gap until Zunino gets here, there’s really not much of a need to have Montero continue catching, and there is a need for a legitimate first baseman in the organization. It’s in everyone’s best interests if the transition happens sooner than later.