The Mariners traded left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery and right-hander Jordan Pries to the Cubs for minor-league1B/DH Dan Vogelbach and minor-league pitcher Paul Blackburn.
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto offered plenty of rationale for trading left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery to the Cubs for minor-league 1B/DH Dan Vogelbach. But his most direct explanation for the trade was best captured in two parts.
“The left-handed offense that Dan Vogelbach brings at some point in 2016 and then for the years beyond was really too appealing to pass up,” Dipoto said.
And then he added, “There’s no specific ETA for his arrival here. But we just feel like the long-term value he brings us, he’s ready to play in the big leagues today. Whether he fits on our roster today is a different matter. But what he brings us long term is too good to walk away from.”
In addition to Montgomery, the Mariners sent the Cubs right-handed pitcher Jordan Pries, a 30th-round draft pick in 2011 who split time this season between Class AA and AAA.
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The Mariners’ haul included Vogelbach and right-handed pitcher Paul Blackburn, a first-round pick in 2012 who is in Class AA.
Vogelbach, a second-round draft pick in 2011, fits the profile Dipoto has talked about since becoming general manager. At 23, he is a career .290 hitter with a career .389 on-base percentage in the minors.
This season, in Class AAA, he is hitting .318 with 16 home runs, 64 RBI and a .425 on-base percentage. He will join Class AAA Tacoma.
“He rakes,” Dipoto said. “He rakes everywhere he’s ever been. He’s an elite strike-zone controller with well above-average power. He has absolutely tormented right-hand pitching, especially this year.”
The Mariners operate a platoon at first base with left-handed hitting Adam Lind splitting time with right-handed hitting Dae-Ho Lee. But Lind is a free agent after this season, and the left-handed-hitting Vogelbach is a natural heir apparent.
“We feel like he has a chance be a real impact (player) in the middle of the order,” Dipoto said. “Whether that starts next week, next month, sometime in September or in 2017 is yet to be determined. But we like the long-term fit.”
The knock against Vogelbach is his defense at first base. In fact, some analysts have long viewed him as a DH at the big-league level. But Dipoto said he and his staff spent the past few weeks studying Vogelbach’s defense.
“We believe he can play first base as well,” Dipoto said. “Now, we’re not expecting the next iteration of Keith Hernandez or Don Mattingly. But he’s really worked hard on his defense. He’s made himself a much better defender, and right now we’re in the business of being surprised by first-base defense like we’ve been this year.”
Dipoto surprised Montgomery during the eighth inning of Wednesday’s game when he informed him of the trade. But Dipoto also told Montgomery that his performance this season propelled the move.
Montgomery, 27, had a 2.34 ERA and became a versatile part of the Mariners’ staff. He started the last two games he pitched in for the Mariners but was particularly lethal out of the bullpen.
“Mike had a good deal of value in the market today,” Dipoto said. “I told him he had built up so much equity from opening day to today that his value, I thought, was at a high.”
Dipoto also looked at his pitching staff and decided he was dealing from an “area of depth.” His thinking was that in a few weeks, the Mariners should have multiple starting options between Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Nathan Karns, Wade LeBlanc and Wade Miley.
He also looked at the bullpen and saw reliever Nick Vincent inching closer to a return, and Vidal Nuno provides some of the same flexibility as Montgomery.
The other piece in the trade is Blackburn, who is 6-4 with a 3.17 ERA in Class AA this season. Dipoto said Blackburn projects as a future No. 4 starter with three quality pitches.
Dipoto pointed out that Blackburn throws strikes and gets ground balls. He has 72 strikeouts and 26 walks in 102 1/3 innings. Blackburn will join Class AA Jackson.
Dipoto said Blackburn “gives us another piece to build forward with, and we start to build up that next phase of our roster. The attraction to us here was getting younger, getting deeper and really starting to fill some positions that become critical needs for us as we move forward, and Mike allowed us to do that.”