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American League

SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Selected the contract of 1B-R Dae-Ho Lee from the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers [3/28]

It was probably always going to end this way. On Sunday, the Mariners announced they would add 6-foot-5, 275-pound Korean first baseman Dae-Ho Lee to the 40-man roster. The team had until Sunday to make the move or risk Lee opting out of his minor-league contract and becoming a free-agent. If Lee is on the 25-man Opening Day roster, and general manager Jerry Dipoto has given every indication that he will be, he’ll make $1 million, with incentives that could pay as much as $4 million.

Lee, 33, slashed 282/.368/.524 in 141 games in the NPB’s Pacific League last year. He played the first 10 years of his career in Korea before making the transition to Japan four years ago.

He was brought in as competition for the right-handed side of the first base platoon to spell Adam Lind, who had a .316 TAv versus right-handed pitching but a very-Mariners first baseman-like .204 against lefties. Lee has hit only .234/.308/.362 with one home run this spring, but shown greater aptitude for the defensive rigors of first base than the Mariners initially expected, and moved more comfortably on the basepaths than you’d expect for a man his size. That, combined with his looming opt-out clause, a disappointing spring from Jesus Montero, and a remaining option for Stefen Romero, was enough to win him the job, at least for now.

So the Mariners have opted for Lee’s potential. He’s another big bodied, power hitting righty, but without the organizational baggage. They’ve opted for defensive strides, and a track record in Japan. They’ve opted for his experience against left-handed pitching. Mostly, they’ve opted for one Jerry Dipoto’s guys.

Lee could succeed or fail. The Mariners might have to settle for too much time with also-ran Stefen Romero as Lind’s right-handed complement. Seattle fans may be left to wonder why in the world they ever thought this would work. Perhaps they’ll have to watch Montero blossom in Jays’ blue. But no matter the outcome, those fans will be hanging the result on Jerry Dipoto. This is Jerry’s team. Now he gets to wear it.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Claimed 1B/DH-R Jesus Montero off waivers from Seattle Mariners [3/28]

Jack Zduriencik had his share of bad trades and failed prospects, but perhaps no player embodied both narratives more completely than Jesus Montero. Acquired in 2012 from the Yankees for Michael Pineda in a fit of Zduriencik’s Ahab-like need for right-handed power, Montero was sidelined by injury and poor performance, and a PED suspension, only to arrive at 2014 Spring Training 40 pounds overweight. A prolonged minor-league stint and an infamous encounter with an ice-cream sandwich later, many were ready to dismiss him entirely. But 2015 looked like a new start. He elected to stay in Arizona during the off-season, and reported to camp in shape and determined to work his way back to the big leagues as a full-time first baseman.

His mentality was transformed along with his body. He told The Seattle Times’ Larry Stone in May of that year, “I didn’t want my daughter, when she’s grown, to see me like a loser.’’ Coaches noted his renewed effort and changed attitude. In a brief burst of potential fulfilled, he tore up Tacoma and hit well initially after a July promotion. But his bat eventually lagged, as it has been wont to do, and he ended the year back in the minors where he began. Montero came into 2016 with Lee and Stefen Romero as his primary competition for the platoon first-base role, and responded with a lethargic .237/.256/.289 line to go with 12 strikeouts.

Out of options, literal and figurative, Montero was placed on waivers this weekend, and was claimed Monday by the Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays don’t have an obvious place for him on the big league roster with Justin Smoak and Chris Colabello covering first base, and Edwin Encarnacion holding down the DH, so they’ll likely expose him to waivers once again to send him to Buffalo. Given his limited defensive profile and hampered bat, the waiver wire may be a depressingly easy obstacle to clear. Still, Montero is just 26. He hasn’t caught since 2013, and didn’t do particularly well when he did, but he plays a serviceable first base. The natural power is still there, even if he has seemed overwhelmed by big league pitching. Perhaps with a change of scenery and a new system, he can get back on track. Even if Montero never reaches the lofty heights the Mariners or Yankees envisioned, he might still develop into something useful. After all, the hard work of overhauling his mind and his body is done.

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MikeGianella
3/29
With Jesus cut and Dae Ho-Lee added, you might say that Dipoto giveth and Dipoto taketh away
stacegots
3/29
Mike...