Buh-Bye Bavasi

June 17, 2008

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Street Reporter

Buh-Bye Bavasi

Along with the rest of the Mariner community on this site (and Seattle fans across the NW) I've been howling for the head of Bill Bavasi, and that chorus of angry villagers only became more raucous as the Ms have stumbled to the worst record in baseball this season, and the siege on Castle Frankenstein had begun. Miraculously, Mariner management saw the light (or perhaps the flickering torches) and fired Bavasi yesterday, a move that began joyous celebrations across the tri-state area.

I have enumerated Bavasi's many GM sins before, but will briefly recall them here:

Sexson ($15.5M for a 1B hitting .217/.297/.392)
Vidro (a $8.5M DH hitting .222/.268/.325)
Adrian Beltre ($13.4M for .226/.303/.423)
Jarrod Washburn ($9.85M for 2-7, 6.09/1.55 ERA/WHIP)
Carlos Silva ($8.25M for 3-7, 5.79/1.46)
Miguel Batista ($9.5M for 3-7, 6.00/1.89, currently the best-paid middle-reliever in baseball)

Also, Bavasi signed Brad Wilkerson this spring to a one-year deal reportedly worth $3M, only to cut him on April 30. Wilkerson was quickly snapped up by the Blue Jays, where he is currently hitting .248/.323/.376 (compare to Vidro and Sexson's numbers above). How's that for sound economics?

He's also traded OF prospect Shin-Soo Choo and a PTBNL (Shawn Nottingham, a minor-league pitcher) for platoon DH Ben Broussard and some cash. Choo is currently hitting .317/.420/.610 in limited action for the Indians, while Broussard was later swapped to the Rangers for second baseman Tug Hulett, a light-hitting guy who can draw walks and likely projects as a utiltyman at best. We lose Choo and Nottingham for 140 games of (approximately) .250/.300/.410 production from Broussard (at around $3M) and a backup to Jose Lopez. Wow.

Snagging Erik Bedard was the highlight of last-year's offseason, and it will be a while before we know the full impact of the deal, but here's how it's shaken out thus far:

Bedard (4-4, 4.14 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) has already been on the DL once, and yesterday John McLaren admitted, "We kind of know Erik's a 100-pitch pitcher. There's no use dwelling on it. It is what it is. He's a 100-pitch pitcher." Not really a ringing endorsement of the durability of his alleged ace.

Baltimore got:

Adam Jones, the Ms top OF prospect and one of the top defensive OFs in the minors. Currently hitting .252/.291/.376 (compare once again to the highly paid guys above, then add to it that Jones is only 22) with a .995 fielding percentage and one error.

George Sherill, currently the Orioles closer and second in the AL with 22 saves, to go along with a 3.48 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, and a 30:16 K:BB ratio. It should be added he's currently experiencing a tired arm, but he's also only making $980K.

Chris Tillman, Seattle's 2007 minor-league pitcher of the year (and #3 prospect for the 2008 Ms, according to BA) at age 19, is currently 7-1 with a 2.78 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, with 66 Ks against 33 walks in 64 innings for AA Bowie.

Tony Butler (BA prospect #12 for the 2008 Ms) just hit the DL with tendinitis after starting the year with a 4.30 ERA and a 15:2 K:BB ratio for Baltimore's high-A Delmarva

Kam Mickolio, a 6'9" 23-year old with a power sinker in the 92-97 range and #18 on BA's prospect list for Seattle.

These are the sorts of deals Seattle should be on the receiving, not giving, end of. Bedard is undoubtedly going to get better, but for how long? Seattle lost one legit major-league outfield prospect, one legit major-league reliever, and three top-20 organizational prospects on the mound. As Andy MacPhail said from Baltimore after the deal, "There aren't too many five-for-one trades anymore." With good reason--there's too many ways for this deal to go wrong for Seattle, and only one way for it to go right (which it hasn't yet).

Anyone remember the fabled Herschel Walker trade (often merely called The Trade)? In exchange for can't-miss running back Walker, Minnesota sold its future and gave Dallas picks leading to Emmit Smith, Russell Maryland, Kevin Smith, Darryl Woodson, Clayton Holmes--and two Superbowls for the Cowboys. Walker, never properly used by the Vikings staff, soon left the Vikings, ending up (ironically) with the Cowboys, leaving the Vikings with nothing.

The Bedard deal, like so many others from Bavasi, will only be truly understood a few years from now, but there are certainly ominous shadings that even this deal may have been too much for not enough. For sure, Seattle will be saddled with Sexson, Vidro, Washburn, Beltre, Batista, and Silva, until they manage to unload them or merely cut their losses. New (interim) GM Lee Pelekoudas (former AGM under Bavasi) will have his work cut out for him, and won't really make it his team this season, unless he snookers some other GMs into taking these albatrosses off his neck, or takes the draconian measures of just releasing them.

Anyone expecting Seattle to get better immediately is dreaming; just like an ocean liner, this $120M payroll will take a long time to turn around. The move to dump Bavasi was a great decision, far better than punishing McLaren or his staff (hitting coach Jeff Pentland, fired last week, looks more and more like a sacrificial lamb). But we must all remain a bit patient to see what Pelekoudas can salvage from the smoking wreckage of the Ms payroll.

Right now, Ms fans are undoubtedly waiting for the happy fairy-tale ending that's supposed to come to those who get everything they want. Instead, we must resist the urge to expect immediate results. A better ending might be to remember an opening, from "The Monkey's Paw": "Be careful what you wish for, lest you receive it."

Keywords: Adam Jones, Adrian Beltre, Ben Broussard, Bill Bavasi, Brad Wilkerson, Carlos Silva, Chris Tillman, Dallas Cowboys, Erik Bedard, George Sherill, Herschel Walker, Jarrod Washburn, John McLaren, Jose Vidro, Lee Pelekoudas, Miguel Batista, Minnesota Vikings, Richie Sexson, Seattle Mariners, Shawn Nottingham, Shin-Soo Choo, Tony Butler, Tug Hulett

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