Aside from playing sports for a living, I have always thought being a general manger would be the next greatest job in the world. I know it would be difficult, and I am not qualified, but as a Mariners fan from 2003-2008, watching helplessly as Bill Bavasi made bad move after bad move, I wondered if I could have done a better job. The trades, signings, and draft picks made by a GM are typically the measuring stick for how good or bad a job he has done. There are many more duties, but ultimately, it comes down to the outcome of the transactions. For Bavasi, his tenure will be remembered for horrible free agent signings where time and time again he threw large money to veterans will little upside, and of course, some bad trades as well. But beyond the Bedard trade and the Carlos Silva type of signings, what else did Bavasi do for 6 years as Mariners GM? Surely he must have made some good moves, but the bad ones are what we remember, right? Yesterday I set out on a mission to analyze the Bill Bavasi era move by move–because I had the day off, the weather was horrific, and baseball storylines are hard to come by right now! Anyways, I compared his tenure to what Jack Zduriencik has done thus far. The results are even uglier than I thought.
Breaking down Bavasi’s 47 trades on my grading scale, I see 2 definitely good trades, 7 definitely bad ones, and 38 rather insignificant moves. Just how bad were Bavasi’s 7 worst trades? Consider this. If you combined all 7 trades, the Mariners gave up Carlos Guillen, Yorvit Torrealba, Matt Thornton, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Shawn Nottingham, Rafael Soriano, Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Tony Butler, Kameron Mickolio, and Chris Tillman, in exchange for Ramon Santiago, Juan Gonzalez (not the one you’re thinking of), Marcos Carvajal, Joe Borchard, Eduardo Perez, Ben Broussard, Horacio Ramirez, and Erik Bedard. WOW!
Jack Z on the other hand has made 17 trades thus far, none of which can be conclusively graded bad, and 6 that I would already call definite good moves. This includes the Bradley for Silva swap, and I realize Bradley has yet to play a regular season game for the M’s. But the fact is Zduriencik was able to unload an overweight, underachieving pitcher for a potential clean-up hitter in Milton Bradley. Even if Bradley never amounts any success in Seattle, it is already a good move, in my mind, based on the fact that Silva was definitely never going to have success here. Again, combining Jack’s 6 definitely good trades, the Mariners gave up J.J. Putz, Sean Green, Luis Valbuena, Jeremy Reed, Fabian Williamson, Yuniesky Betancourt, Justin Souza, Jarrod Washburn, and Carlos Silva, in exchange for Franklin Gutierrez, Endy Chavez, Ezequiel Carrera, Maikel Cleto, Aaron Heilman, Mike Carp, Jason Vargas, David Aardsma, Derrick Saito, Daniel Cortes, Jack Hannahan, Mauricio Robles, Luke French, and Milton Bradley. That’s quite a haul! Essentially we received our starting centerfielder, utility infielder, 5th starter, clean-up hitter, closer, and a ton of minor league talent for next to nothing.
Now, as if the trades weren’t bad enough, the signings are where things really unraveled for Bavasi. Overpriced veterans with little upside were Bill’s obsession, for some odd reason. And he made a habit of accruing them. Things started nicely with the Raul Ibanez pick-up and extensions for Randy Winn and Ichiro. But then came Scott Spiezio ($9M), Rich Aurilia ($3.5M), Richie Sexson ($50M), Pokey Reese ($1.2M), Jarrod Washburn ($37.5M), Carl Everett ($3M), Miguel Batista ($25M), Jeff Weaver ($8.3M), Yuniesky Betancourt ($13.75M), Carlos Silva ($48M), Brad Wilkerson ($3M), and Kenji Johjima’s extension ($24M)–though Kenji’s extension was probably not Bavasi’s decision. That’s more than $225 million for 12 players who amounted zero all star appearances. Of these 12 disaster signings 7 were cut, 2 traded, 2 played out the full contract (yeah for Batista and Washburn!) and zero are Mariners today. In fact, of the 23 most notable signings of the Bavasi era, I would argue that only once did Bavasi have a successful free agent acquisition, meaning a player who was not already on the Mariners. That’s Jose Guillen. Thanks Jose for salvaging a small part of the Bavasi era.
Note: One could also argue Adrian Beltre was a successful signing, and while I would tend to agree, his injuries and general lack of power make it tough to definitively call the Beltre signing good.
Again, I find it beneficial and uplifting to look at Jack Zduriencik’s body of work, and so here is a summary of his signings thus far. Of the 8 most notable signings, 1 was a definite success (Branyan), and none appear to be bad moves thus far. Better yet, the largest contract Jack has given to a free agent is to Chone Figgins, for the reasonable price of $36 million. Jack has also done well to lock up arguably the three most important players for the future in Ackley, Gutierrez and Felix Hernandez.
Finally, the draft picks are where we can find a glimmer of talent in the Bavasi era. Of course, draft picks have a lot to do with talent evaluators and scouts, so who knows how much credit Bavasi deserves. But nevertheless, under Bavasi’s watch, the M’s drafted promising players in Mark Lowe (5th round), Michael Saunders (11th round), Chris Tillman (2nd round), Adam Moore (6th round), Doug Fister (7th round), Tyson Gillies (25th round), Shawn Kelly (13th round), and Josh Fields (1st round). Of course, all of this is overshadowed by the biggest draft mistake, which of course is taking Brandon Morrow over Tim Lincecum. Tough to penalize Bavasi too much for this though because every year team’s pick someone over a guy who ends up being an all star. Still, it’s hard to imagine what could have been with Tim here.
Jack’s draft is hardly conclusive. Ackley, Franklin and Baron are the 3 most notable picks of the Zduriencik tenure, none of whom are conclusively good or bad picks quite yet.
There you have it! As they say, the numbers don’t lie. Unfortunately for Bill Bavasi, 2 good trades, 1 or 2 nice free agent pick-ups and some solid draft picks aren’t enough, or even close, to qualify as a good tenure. Despite the shrewd Sean Green and Sean White acquisitions, Bavasi’s history leading the M’s will be marred forever by short sighted signings, lopsided trades, and a boatload of cash spent on little return in player performance. We will forever associate Bill Bavasi with Carlos Guillen, Horacio Ramirez, Scott Speizio, Carl Everett, Richie Sexson, Brad Wilkerson, Carlos Silva, Miguel Batista, Jeff Weaver, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Rafael Soriano, and of course, Adam Jones, Chris Tillman and Erik Bedard. But the page has turned, and our trust is in Jack Z now. The bad contracts are unloaded, new talent is on board, and the future is bright for Mariners baseball. It’s good to be a fan again.
Special thanks to Brendan Bianowicz and MLBTradeRumors.com for gathering the bulk of this information.