Heavy hitter: Montero could help Mariners’ offense

May 21, 2014, 10:56 AM | Updated: Jul 14, 2014, 10:00 am

Despite his inglorious resume, Jesus Montero could fill the Mariners’ need for a right-handed bat. (AP)

Corey Hart is expected to miss the next four to six weeks with a hamstring strain, which means a lot of things for the Mariners:

• They don’t have a legitimate designated hitter in his absence
• They don’t have a legitimate backup first baseman in his absence
• They don’t have a legitimate clean-up hitter in his absence

Kendrys Morales could be a solution, but Jesus Montero is a cheaper option who could be just as effective and a better bet in the long-term.

As Scott Weber of Lookout Landing pointed out, Hart will miss out on some of the incentives in his contract by not playing in the next 35 to 40 games. That could free up money that could be used toward the signing of Morales.

Stephen Drew – who had rejected a $14 million qualifying offer from the Red Sox – signed with Boston for $10 million on Tuesday. The Red Sox think he will need eight to 10 days and 25 at-bats before he’ll be ready to join the major-league team.

Morales also rejected his $14 million qualifying offer from the Mariners. We could be looking at a similar situation to Drew, and at the time, I thought it was worth making the $14 million offer to Morales, but I’m not so sure anymore – not with the market what it is now and not with Montero as an option.

I know, in some respects, it might be a crazy suggestion. This is a guy who was suspended 50 games last year for a performance-enhancing drug violation, a guy who showed up at spring training as a fattie, saying, “All I did was eat” in the offseason.

Montero has been a disappointment since arriving in the Michael Pineda trade. He never worked out as a major-league catcher. But general manager Jack Zduriencik acquired him because of his credentials as a hitter. It’s not just Zduriencik – everyone thinks he can hit.

Compare the one full season that Montero had with the Mariners to Morales’. In 135 games in 2012 at the age of 22, Montero averaged .260 with 15 home runs, 20 doubles and 60 RBIs. In 156 games last year, Morales averaged .277 with 23 home runs, 34 doubles and 80 RBIs.

Then when you compare what it would cost – Morales at $8 million to $10 million vs. $500,000 for Montero. Plus Montero’s already on the 40-man roster and he’s just down the road, ready to go without needing a rehab assignment, which would be necessary with Morales.

I’ve been to a couple of Rainiers games and Montero still looks a little overweight, but he’s not fat anymore. And I don’t really care if he’s got a gut as long as he can hit.

In 38 games in Tacoma, Montero has promising numbers – a .268 average, eight home runs, nine doubles and 32 RBIs. He went 2 for 4 with three RBIs and a home run Monday night in a win over Reno.

In his transition from catcher to first base, he has six errors in Tacoma this season. I don’t know if he’s been terrible or average or something in between, but I don’t even care about that so much. If he can at least be competent out there once every week or two to give Justin Smoak a break, fine.

With Montero, here’s what you have:

• A right-handed hitter on a team that needs right-handed hitters
• Power from the right side, another thing that’s lacking
• A backup first baseman
• A potentially decent clean-up hitter

Again, I know it’s ridiculous to think that Jesus Montero is the solution to anything with his history, but it’s not as far-fetched anymore.

The Go 2 Guy also writes for KitsapSun.com and Seattlepi.com. You can reach Jim at jimmoorethego2guy@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.

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Heavy hitter: Montero could help Mariners’ offense