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Yuni to the Royals

Yuniesky BetancourtLast night, an "organizational decision" was made to pull Yuniesky Betancourt from the game in Tacoma. In other words, the move wasn't injury-related, meaning Yuni had been traded but the M's couldn't say that officially yet. The move that seemed imminent last night was finally announced. Now, officially, Yuni is going to the Kansas City Royals for pitching prospects Dan Cortes and Derrick Saito.

Betancourt is a known commodity, and a frustrating one at that. He has talent, and perhaps a change of scenery will do him good. It was so aggravating watching him get worse and worse each year, both at the plate and in the field, even though he is still just 27 years old. While Yuni and Don Wakamatsu did not butt heads, Betancourt seemed oblivious to Don's constant prods to be more patient at the plate, and focus more on the field. It looked like the coaching staff may have been breaking through right before Yuni got injured, but it is hard to tell. Regardless, he is not a big loss for the Mariners. Even if Ronny Cedeno bats .150 the rest of the year, he has better patience at the plate than Betancourt (which isn't saying much at all, but still is true), a little more power, and much better defense. Personally, I think Cedeno will improve at the plate with more playing time; it's just a question of how much. The bottom line is that the M's are better off with Cedeno playing every day anyway.

Now, on to who the M's acquired. Derrick Saito is a diminutive 21-year-old southpaw, listed at just 5'9" and 155 pounds. He is in his first full season of professional baseball, and at first glance it is an unimpressive one. In low-A he has a 2-6 record and 4.15 ERA coming out of the bullpen. However, Saito is the victim of some bad luck. In 52 innings, he has allowed 50 hits and 4 home runs, while walking 15 and striking out 53. All those numbers are darn good. A lefty that can come out of the bullpen and strikeout lefties and righties, while also keep the ball in the yard, has some value.

The big catch in the trade though is Dan Cortes. He is 22 years old, and repeating AA. Why he needs to repeat AA is beyond me, because he was the Royals 2008 minor league pitcher of the year, and rated their top pitching prospect coming into this season, with the best fastball and curveball of all of Kansas City's prospective hurlers. His strikeouts are down considerably this year, but so are his home runs, and he is getting more ground balls too. Ultimately, his ERA is about the same, so judging from his numbers it looks like he is trying to pitch to contact more this season, and it is working. At 6'6", 215 pounds, Cortes has a great frame for pitching, and his classic fastball-curveball combo plays well at any level. Perhaps his value has sunk with the lower strikeout rate and a lack of clear progress despite repeating AA - but still, the Mariners got this guy AND another pitching prospect for Yuni Betancourt.

Jack Z is a magician. Betancourt shouldn't have netted this caliber of pitching talent. Of course, the only reason the M's could even consider dealing Yuni is because they have acquired Ronny Cedeno, Josh Wilson, and Chris Woodward for practically nothing over the course of the past six months. Say what you want about the trio's shortcomings, but the M's had Betancourt, Miguel Cairo, and Tug Hulett last year, and that was it. I would have played Hulett over Betancourt, but the point is that the M's have three guys as good or better than Yuni right now instead of just one.

Then again, Jack Z probably is not done. Pittsburgh scouts are in Seattle right now, and both Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson make a whole bunch of sense for the M's. Still, the Betancourt deal can stand on its own. The team right now was not going to be any better with Yuni's return, and the future just got brighter with Cortes and Saito added to the minor league system.

Kansas City has kept Tony Pena (a less powerful, even more aggressive version of Yuni) on the roster all year, so I can see why they would be willing to take a chance on Betancourt. I don't understand why they think so much of him to give up as much as they did, but I'm not going to ask questions. I've watched the M's pull the trigger on deals like Asdrubal Cabrera for Eduardo Perez in the past, and I've kept telling myself that some day a GM would come to Seattle and pull a similar deal in the M's favor. Maybe this is the trade (or maybe it has already happened with how great Gutierrez looks), but I am sure that Jack Z is the man that will make it happen with deals like this one.