Crede over Reed? Well, I guess Bavasi was serious about not knowing what to make of minor league statistics or… that’s a baaaaaaaaaaad sign.
Next up: Moyer to NYY? New York’s always whining about not having enough left-handed starters, it’s been particularly bad with Pettitte gone while their rotation hasn’t been Yankee-quality, and Moyer’s contract, while a little expensive, isn’t so bad. Maybe Bavasi gets the long-desired Contreras that way.
The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the White Sox only agreed to this deal when Bavasi agreed to take Jeremy Reed instead of… drumroll please… 3B Joe Crede. Crede’s 26 with a .261/.305/.444 career line, a poor walk rate and decent power.
Crede’s not a bad player, per se, but he’s about to get more expensive via arbitration and the M’s have three players in their farm system — Justin Leone, Greg Dobbs, Jose Lopez — who can do about the same for cheaper, whereas Reed, the outfielder, fills a much bigger need.
So, lucky break there, I guess.
Well, this is kind of cool.
The M’s actually signed somebody at one of their tryout camps — John Austin Emmons wowed them enough at Wolff Stadium (home of the San Antonio Missions) to earn a contract. He’s off to the Arizona rookie league.
A friend just passed along via email that today is the 5th anniversary of the last game at the Kingdome. Last M’s game, of course; I don’t care that the Seahawks played there later on.
Bavasi was not playing dumb. I’m sorry. This was a great move, but there is no way that Bavasi spent so much money this off-season, made so many moves so badly without believing that it was the right thing to do to win the division.
Now, whether they had a plan of “buy these guys for maximum puntage in case of possible failure”… no. I’m sorry, but no. The buy-low sell-high strategy requires you to buy low. If this was their strategy they’d have stuck with Guillen, who had far more upside and was more desirable to other teams if he performed (cheaper+younger) than Aurilia. The guys you want to bring in with that strategy are below-market gambles. Take Guardado: sure, he’s a relief pitcher, closer, decent contract. Sure, you could make an argument that there’s a decent compete-or-punt guy. But by and large, the guys Bavasi brought in were old, not the kind of players competitors would be looking for even if they were having hot seasons (the good Spiezio, which we haven’t seen, only really fits a need for many of those teams if they suffer nasty injuries they can’t patch internally, and then wouldn’t net much in trade).
The other side to this theory is that Bavasi’s been playing dumb all along so that he could seem to want to continue competing and force a high price for Freddy, because competent GMs demand more in trades. That’s just silly. Take Beane. Beane’s known as a hawk on the phone, eager to work three way trades or do whatever it takes to make a deal work out. His team doesn’t trade with a couple GMs because… well, every club tends to have a couple of “friendly” franchises that share ideas and trade more easily with, and other franchises they don’t get along with. There’s a whole other thing behind that, but anyway…
Beane makes trades. Teams don’t block his calls because he’s a gregarious guy who’ll sniff around rumors and talk to you about outlandish deals in order. This is true of every GM: being dumb may get you more calls (just like the dumb GMs in fantasy leagues get pestered with awful trade offers in the hopes they’ll bite) but it doesn’t hamper or help your ability to talk to and trade with other teams.
And to the possibility of it being a strategy: every game the team loses costs them $1m. Not today, and maybe not tomorrow, and maybe if the fans keep coming out to see the team make Adam Eaton look like an ace it won’t make that big of a difference. But Guillen-for-Aurilia? Assuming the two players would have similar levels of performance in Hypothetical World as they do today, that’s three games Bavasi punted *so far this season* just on that move as supporting evidence for a grand scheme to make himself look dumb for no gain. It certainly worked. Spiezio over one of the better free agent 3B is probably two games… and so on.
No GM in baseball intentionally makes bad moves for the sake of making a bad move. Every move has enough potential to go bad on its own. No GM reached their position without being super-competitive, and no GM looks at a loss as getting closer to a goal, because their goal, all of them, is to field winning ball clubs. Even moves that look like they’re intended to lose games, like trading a pitcher for prospects, are designed to make the team better in the long term. The M’s don’t have Jacobsen in AAA when he could help here because they don’t want that marginal advantage: they don’t agree with us that he would help at all.
There is no way — none — that Bavasi sat down this off-season and thought “I’ve been given the helm of a 90-win club, Raul Ibanez is all but signed, and I have many millions to play with. What I should do is reaaaaally mess things up so it’s easier to clean it up.”
I have no doubt that Bavasi, while scratching his head wondering how this team went off the rails so badly, was honestly and sincerely pained every time he had to watch them play.
Say it’s true, though. Gig’s up, isn’t it. He’d have burned this season in order to make one good trade, after which everyone wakes up and now he can’t make trade because smart GMs can’t make deals (which is why he was pretending to be dumb). No player is worth that, no prospect is worth that (and I’m a Jeremy Reed fan. I celebrate his entire catalogue). No two prospects are worth it.
The problem with this theory is that it sort of fits today and sort of fits in retrospect, and it’s nice to believe that there was a plan. But doesn’t really fit with “They had a terrible off-season following their plan and now, having abandoned it, have made a great move that gives us hope that maybe they have a better plan or at least learned something.”
There’s cause for optimism in the second, plus it’s true. The simplest explanation fits best, and I think it’s the most hopeful, because the hypothetical pretend-village-idiot theory carries a lot of strange implciations.
And man, if Bavasi’s really on the ball, this shouldn’t be the end. I’m hoping for a full Dave-advocated team blowing, followed by intelligent acquisitions on the free agent front in the off-season.
Something else: we haven’t been spreading rumors. This isn’t because we’ve suddenly become adverse to it (when I asked the question of spread/no spreading a couple months back, readers who wrote in were universally in favor of us posting them if we had them). It’s because one of the things that’s happened this year is the front office has fractured. Dave and I, for instance, might hear two wildly divergent stories about the M’s doing something with prospect A, both from credible sources. And then nothing happens. After that happened a couple of times, I became really shy about posting anything, because what’t the point?
Before this season, I felt like if I heard “Borders to the Yankees for Luis Sojo” I could run with it.
Now I have to hear that and be able to get someone else in another front office to confirm it, and then all I know is that someone in our front office was discussing it, possibly without the blessing of Bavasi.
Not that I knew about this. I hadn’t heard anything until it went down, and the earliest email I got (because I was at the game) was ~30m before it happened.
Since the rivers of optimism are flowing (seriously, when was the last time the entire blogosphere was a good mood? Last summer?), let me make another suggestion that would make me jump for joy.
Usually, you won’t see us campaigning for acquisitions of players who are hitting .275/.338/.347 and are mediocre defensive players at non-premium positions. But this is a classic case of buying low. Last year, Ensberg hit .291/.377/.530, making him one of the best third basemen in the National League. He whacked 25 home runs in just 385 at-bats, as Jimy Williams somehow found ways to platoon him with Geoff Blum, despite the fact that he was an all-star caliber hitter. Ensberg’s 2004 slump (he hasn’t homered all year) has Williams convinced that Mike Lamb is deserving of a good chunk of Ensberg’s playing time, and its no secret that Williams isn’t an Ensberg fan. He’s 28 years old, so he’s in the prime of his career, and the Astros still aren’t willing to make him an everyday player.
His PECOTA projections for the next three years give him EqA’s of .286, .284, and .280. For comparison, Ichiro’s 2004 EqA is .289. So, we could reasonably expect Ensberg to be one of the best hitters on the team, playing a position of need, for what will amount to chump change (he makes $380,000 this year, won’t get a big raise in arbitration, especially with his off year). The Astros have just traded away their closer to acquire Beltran and could use a solid late inning left-handed arm. They’ve also struggled with injury problems to their rotation and could use some depth at starting pitcher.
Dangle Ron Villone and Mike Myers and see if Hunsicker bites. Throw in Justin Leone just to get him another similar player to replace Ensberg (despite the fact that Ensberg is the far superior talent, you can at least make a case that they are the same type of player). If all else fails, throw Eddie Guardado in the mix, and get back an arm like Fernando Nieve as well.
Perhaps I’m getting overly optimistic, but a 2005 line-up core built around Ichiro, Reed, Ensberg, and Olivo isn’t a bad start, and the money saved by having three cheap starters leaves more than enough for a run at Carlos Beltran or Troy Glaus. Ensberg is almost certainly available, and Hunsicker is clearly going for it this year. He’s the power bat the fans have been craving, and they might not get another opportunity to acquire one so cheaply.
Okay, one more thing on this fine, fine trade, which I whole-heartedly endorse:
It adds a lot of credence to the view that Bavasi/etc weren’t really expecting the team to get back into it, but instead used Gammons/everyone like us to spread the view that while Freddy might be available, that they were reluctant to let him go: that the team was doing the exact opposite of the mistakes they made this off-season trading players. We know the order went down some time ago to dismantle: maybe they’re learning from their mistakes.
I can only hope.
Now, the alternate view is that they were sincere about farting around, and this was such a whopper of an offer that it overcame their objections. More on this view later.
Oh, and one other great thing — Garcia (for now, at least) isn’t a Yankee, and I think I speak on behalf of all real Mariner fans when I say that there is little that would have galled me more than to see Freddy starting a World Series game with the Yankees (except, perhaps, if the Mariners had taken those two scrubs that were rumored to be heading over here).
Here’s a link to an article I wrote for Baseball Prospectus last year, profiling Reed, for those interested.
I haven’t been this happy to be an M’s fan in… a year? Maybe more.
I was sitting at the game today when my phone rang. Normally, I don’t answer my phone anyway, and never at games, but it was Jason, and this was more or less our conversation:
JMB: “Dude, they traded Garcia.”
JMB: “They got Mig–”
DMZ: “Jeremy Reed! Jeremy Reed!”
JMB: “Yes, they got Jeremy Reed. And Miguel Olivio, and a shortstop– I don’t know who yet. We give up Garcia and Ben Davis…”
DMZ: jaw down, staring out at field, blinking
This is the kind of deal we’ve almost never seen the last couple of years: a free agent in their walk year, expensive, traded for several good players. This is the kind of deal I’d expect a sharp, horse-swapping GM like Beane or Shapiro to make… I never would have thought the M’s would pull off a haul like this.
I was at the game, though, in an amazingly good seat. There wasn’t really a crowd reaction to the centerfield video-screen notice. Many more people booed at the end of the game than said anything about the trade at the time. I now present this Triple Play Freddy Garcia Trade Edition of Overheard at the Ballpark ™:
Woman behind me:
“Chicago White Sox? Isn’t that where we traded Guillen?” (DMZ: No, ma’am, that was the Tigers) “Oh, I was thinking he’d be back together with his friend.”
Woman with child:
Woman: “They traded my friend Freddy.”
Woman: “The White Sox. It was a bad trade, but we’ll see.”
Woman on bus:
“I’m upset. I really liked Freddy.”
I don’t understand that, really. As fans, we’ve come out to the ballpark every game this season and seen an awful, awful team play. They’re old, devoid of power, they play much worse defense than they used to, the lineup’s badly built and managed… if they’d put up an announcement that said “The Mariners announce they have demoted the team and called up the Rainiers” or even “The Mariners announce that they’ve traded their starting nine for Detroit’s starting nine” I’d have shrugged and said “It’s a start.”
Is there really that strong of an emotional attachment to Freddy? If so, why the boos when he struggled for so long?
And considering Freddy was going to leave anyway, and this season was lost, why not trade him?
I wondered, on the bus back home, if maybe the M’s weren’t just blowing smoke about the fans, if they’d done enough surveys and knew their demographic well enough that they’d realized that there would be a significant portion of people upset by any trade of “top” players.
But here’s the other thing. The people who said “that sucks, I don’t know any of these guys” are the same kind of people who bitched about the Randy Johnson trade. I (and, uh, we) get hate mail all the time that says “what the (expletive) do you know about (item) anyway?” But there’s a huge contingent of people who’ll dismiss a trade like this because they don’t know anything. Like if we’d traded Freddy for Nomar and Clemens, or whichever names they recognized, that’d have been fine, but not knowing…
“I see you drive a Chevy Citation. I’ll give you this fine Swedish automobile for it.”
“No, that deal sucks, I don’t know anything about Swedish cars. What’s it called?”
“It’s a Volvo.”
“It’s twenty times safer, gets better gas mileage, it seats four comfortably, handles better, and can out-accelerate your Citation.”
“I can provide you with these handy reviews from leading magazines… government crash test ratings?”
“I like my Citation.”
I want to hook these people up somehow.
I can’t help but notice you once again second-guessed Melvin’s decision to bunt runners over with two outs. Have you considered that he was trying to do the unexpected, in the hopes of future returns? What do you know about managing a baseball game?”
Thank you for your email. Please contact email@example.com, who has given this subject much less thought and has even stronger opinions on the subject.”
Kidding aside, this is good news. It’s not “redeems a disastrous off-season” good news, but it’s far better than anything I’d hoped for, and I’m a happy fan today. I hope now the Mariners will be able to deploy these new guys to take advantage of them and improve the team.
Jeremy Reed… man, that’s cool.