Thursday, January 27, 2005

Yuniesky Betancourt 

The Mariners yesterday announced the signing (which was actually done back on December 16th) of Cuban shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt to a four-year, $2.8 million contract plus incentives. John Hickey at the PI has a nice summary on the signing. Mariner Minors gives a good synopsis of what we know about him as a ballplayer.

According to the AP, "Seattle is giving him a $1.31 million signing bonus and salaries of $316,000 this year, $350,000 in 2006, $400,000 in 2007 and $450,000 in 2008. In addition, his 2008 salary could rise by as much as an additional $700,000 if he has 1,000 plate appearances in the previous three years... If Betancourt accumulates enough service time by the end of the 2007 season to become eligible for salary arbitration. 2008 would be voided."

What does this mean to the Mariners? Well, for one, it means we have found an excellent replacement for the second and third round picks we will lose in this year's draft for signing free agents Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson. Essentially, the contract is similar to one that you might give a mid to late first round pick. Think of the 22-year-old Betancourt as a hot prospect just out of college, and you'll have the right level of excitement.

Betancourt was somewhat of a hot commodity with his suitors including the Mets, Red Sox, Dodgers, Braves, and Rangers. He played shortstop as a 17-18 year old on the Cuban National Team in 2000, and moved to second base to accomodate a veteran. He is expected to start the year at AA San Antonio, but whether it will be at shortstop, second base or somewhere else is up in the air.

There is little knowledge of how his stats will translate into the big leagues, so we are left to hope that the same scouting department that has found us Ichiro, Chris Snelling, and Shin-Soo Choo has struck gold again. Essentially, this deal has nothing but upside.

As part of the deal, Betancourt was given a major league contract and has been placed on the 40 man roster. This means that Benny Looper's son Aaron finally gets designated for assignment. Aaron is currently recovering from ligament replacement surgery from last May and is expected to clear waivers and sign a minor league deal with the M's.

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