Agents of Change

Dave · October 7, 2004 at 6:28 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I wasn’t planning on writing this post until Gillick’s official exit had been announced, but you guys have asked enough and I’m tired of hinting. There’s a few things I’m not going to reveal that would hurt the team if they became public (remember, I’m a fan, not a journalist, and I feel no moral obligation to make the M’s less likely to accomplish some of their goals), but beyond a few specific details, here’s the gist of the evolution of the M’s organization in the past year. We’ll do it in timeline fashion.

July 31, 2003. Trading deadline last year. Pat Gillick was not in Seattle, and the fans were told he was in Toronto “moving”. The consensus in the organization begins to form that this is his last season.

September 30, 2003. Pat Gillick “steps down as general manager” and moves into a consulting role. The executives decide the best course of action is to continue the status quo as much as possible, and ask Gillick to stay with the club as a consultant. He is given the majority of the power in selecting his own replacement.

October 20, 2003. It becomes apparent that Gillick’s retirement is a near-total sham. The structure of the organization has changed little in the twenty days since he stepped down and he’s been given enough control after selecting his successor that he’s essentially going to be the new GM’s boss. USSM gets pretty negative for a few weeks.

November 7, 2003. Bill Bavasi is named General Manager. He’s basically told that the offseason plan is already in place and the team is prepared to make several moves almost immediately.

November 19, 2003. The Mariners sign Raul Ibanez to a contract. Bill Bavasi had about as much to do with this signing as I did.

December 6, 2003. The organization reshuffles positions, with Bavasi bringing in his friend Bob Fontaine as scouting director, and moving several Gillick hires into less prominant roles.

Decemeber 7, 2003. The Mariners non-tender Mike Cameron, Arthur Rhodes, and re-sign Shigetoshi Hasegawa to a 2 year, $6.3 million contract. These moves were all “heavily suggested” by Gillick and his loyalists. Bavasi appears in public with strings attached to his mouth and Pat Gillick’s hand inserted in his back.

December 11, 2003. The first appearance of “Gillvasi” on the blog, as the new term describing the Mariners front office is coined.

January 8, 2004. The Mariners wrap up the offseason of doom with the Carlos Guillen-Ramon Santiago swap. Bavasi describes Santiago as a player who “can pick it up and throw it”. The old regime contributes to the debacle by essentially demanding that Guillen be moved, and Bavasi “contributes” by deciding on the “talent” to acquire.

April 4, 2004. Bavasi makes his first trade without heavy consultation from Gillick and company, acquiring Jolbert Cabrera.

April through September, 2004. Team sucks.

Sometime in October, 2004. Pat Gillick leaves organization.

Over the past year, the club has transitioned in stages. First we had run by Gillick, followed by Gillick telling Bavasi what to do, then Bavasi begins to make bad moves of his own accord, and finally Gillick and loyal subjects leave organization. As the transition has occurred, there has been a noticable change in my conversations with organizational folks. The company line is towed far less often. Dissension was pretty clear starting in about April. By June, you could call the organization a house divided, and it didn’t stand long.

So, we’re almost to a Gillick-free era. What organizational philosophies are leaving with him?

1. The lack of importance of “star players”. This one gets thrown on Lincoln quite a bit, but Gillick was one of the main proponants of the no-barcaloungers-in-the-clubhouse philosophy that avoided anyone who didn’t buy into a 25-as-1 philosophy. Instead of spending large amounts on one individual, Gillick believed in spreading the wealth and acquiring a balanced team, spending less on the top tier and more on the reserves.

2. First round picks are paid out of line with their actual value and should be actively avoided. The organization viewed the loss of their first round pick as compensation for signing Raul Ibanez early a bonus, not a deterrant. Gillick preferred a strategy that leaned on overdrafting in later rounds for hard-sign guys who fell to compensate for not having an early pick. Despite some logical basis, this theory has been hammered by every actual study done on draft performance.

3. Veteran leadership is the most undervalued aspect in the game, and a team full of players with experience will beat a team full of similarly talented players lacking experience.

These were three tenets of the Gillick regime that Bavasi simply does not agree with. He covets a star player, a “face of the organization” type. He believes strongly in the draft and brought Bob Fontaine in to ressucitate the Mariners performance in the amateur draft. Rather than valuing veterans nearly every time, Bavasi values athleticism higher than almost anyone outside of Tampa Bay, which few older players possess.

Many of the theories that we have seen the organization stick to under Gillick will not exist under Bavasi. The M’s are going to be the major player in the upcoming offseason. When discussing parts of the plan headed towards free agency, the names at the top of the wish list are Beltre, Beltran, and Clement. Bavasi is hoping to change over nearly 40 percent of the roster by January. Is it going to work? We’ll see. I have some reservations about how successful the club will be if Plan A fails. Plan B and C aren’t especially inviting, to me, even though they involve spending a lot of money.

Fans should understand, however, that Gillick’s departure from power means the removal of most of the negative stereotypes about the organization. I’m not endorsing Bill Bavasi as a better talent evaluator or GM than Gillick, but there’s absolutely no question that he’s different. The M’s may screw this offseason up, but they won’t screw it up the same way they have the past several years. They aren’t going to get burned by Rich Aurilia types this fall. If they screw up, it’s going to be on a grand scale.

The M’s are going to spend a lot of money this winter. I can’t guarantee they are going to spend it all well, but I can tell you that several of the players we would like to see in Seattle will be forced into deciding to take less money from another organization to turn down the Mariners offer. And, with very few exceptions, the high bidder almost always gets the player in free agency.

The Mariners are no longer Pat Gillick’s team. For better or worse, the 25 man roster that reports to camp next spring will be Bill Bavasi’s team. The old regime believed in a conservative, risk-free, no commitment approach to player acquisition, allowing them to get out from under any errors quickly and relatively cheap. The 2005 Mariners are going to be nearly the opposite; lots of potential, even more risk. If the M’s hit a home run during free agency, they’ll be contending for the division next year. If they swing and miss, the Bavasi regime is going to be a very short-lived one that will leave a humungous mess to clean up. I’m both excited by the potential and scared of the risk. I’m not convinced that the new way is better than the old way, or that we have the right people in charge. I am, however, glad that November won’t be a boring month to be a Mariner fan for the first time in years.


86 Responses to “Agents of Change”

  1. Paul Molitor Cocktail on October 8th, 2004 9:18 am

    It wasn’t just standing up to Gillick; the FO was stocked with Gillick’s people. Bavasi making a frontal attack as soon as he realized what he signed up for would have been political suicide.

    By the time Bavasi had the upper hand (and the power to make the Garcia trade), it was too late anyway.

  2. Mark on October 8th, 2004 9:24 am

    I cringe a little when I see people here referring to Beltran/Beltre/Clement as if bidding for them is tantamount to signing them. We know all three will be in heavy demand, and we also know (or can be reasonably confident) that Steinbrenner will be gunning for a couple of them. And when was the last time Steinbrenner was outbid for a player he really wanted? If the Yankees decide they really need Beltran to take Bernie William’s position in center field, he will be wearing pinstripes. You can put that in the bank.

    It’s sad to say, but in the end it might turn out that all Bavasi will be able to do, with respect to players on the top tier, is bid up the amount that some other team will be paying them. Gillick’s philosophy might turn out to be better suited to Seattle, a mid-level media market that has difficulty landing high profile players.

  3. dude on October 8th, 2004 9:38 am

    Hey Jemanji,

    Lighten up man… Your posts come across as very Dick Cheneyesq.

    Mo Vaughn may have been a good even great signing if they hadn’t signed him to a 7 year deal.

    From 11/9/03 ussmariner.

    Why Mo Vaughn was a horrible, horrible signing, and anyone should have seen that coming

    Mo Vaughn was 30, coming off eight years in Boston where he’d been a spectacularly good hitter in a good hitters park. However, even then, Vaughn was six-one and closing on three bills, no matter what the press guide told you. He wasn’t mobile at first and was going to be a DH shortly (where his value is much less), and huge dudes aren’t good bets to remain healthy. His walk rate dropped badly in 1998, which should have been a warning sign. On a sort of character note, Vaughn spent a lot of time driving back and forth to Rhode Island, where the strip club laws were more lenient (his DUI came on a return trip), and Vaughn did not want to leave the East Coast and its nightlife (that Vaughn signed the contract and didn’t wait long before starting to whine about wanting a trade back to the other coast says a lot about Vaughn).

    The Angels and Bavasi need a 1b, though, and Bavasi signs Vaughn to this deal (from MLB Contracts):

    1999: $5.0M (+$13.0M signing bonus, $5.0M paid initially)

    2000: $9.0M

    2001: $11.0M

    2002: $10.0M

    2003: $15.0M (plus remaining $8.0M of signing bonus)

    2004: $15.0M

    2005: Team option $14.0M or $2.0M buyout

    However, that differs from what I pulled from USA Today’s historical payroll numbers:

    1999 $ 7,166,666

    2000 $ 11,166,667

    2001 $ 13,166,668

    2002 $ 12,166,667

    2003 $ 17,166,667

    Either way, you see the problem. While Mo Vaughn might have been a good deal initially for his age 31 season, this is a contract that absolutely cripples the club late. Vaughn was going to get paid $15m+ at 35 and 36, when there was no way a rational person would think he’d be worth that in either year.

    Mo Vaughn’s salary, ranked in MLs: 1999, don’t know, about 30th? 2000, 9th. 2001, 6th. 2002, 15th. 2003, 4th.

    Mo Vaughn was signed to a deal where Vaughn would have to be one of the best hitters in the league through the life of the contract when it was obvious, even if you think that Vaughn was worth it initially, that Vaughn was a terrible bet to remain a healthy and elite player through age 36.

    You can argue that the contract was part of the times, that long-term huge deals were all the rage and Bavasi was just caught up in the enthusiasm. I don’t care, he should have been smarter than that. Find a better investment. Say what you will about his record, and we’re probably responsible for more shots at him than anyone, but Gillick’s stubborn refusal to go long-term on players saved this team from making exactly those kind of mistakes.

    Bavasi messed up. We shouldn’t let the desire to give him a honeymoon blind us to the fact that he made a colossal error in the Vaughn contract.

  4. Adam S on October 8th, 2004 9:41 am

    On #26, I’m 95% sure that Aramis Ramirez is not a free agent. I’ve heard his name tossed around a lot, but he only appears to have 5 years of service. More importanly nothing I’ve read on the Cubs MLB site suggests he is a free agent they have to resign.

    On #46, I don’t understand the fascintation with Clement either. This is the Cubs 5th starter we’re talking about making our #1. As a Cubs fan I’ve watched him pitch many times the past two years. He has terrific stuff which will often wow you. But when all is said and done over the past two seasons he’s managed to be under .500 for a team that’s averaged 89 wins. I’d compare him to Ryan Franklin of 2003 — he pitches well but finds a way to not win. What do others think of Clement? USSM have you done a write up on FA pitchers yet?

    Nice to hear the Ms are talking about Beltre and Beltran. I’d be surprised if they get Beltre and absolutey flabbergasted if they sign Beltran.

  5. hans on October 8th, 2004 10:10 am

    I think I’ve got it…

    Jemanji, you ARE Bavasi!

  6. im glueck on October 8th, 2004 10:52 am

    Well that would explain a lot. Instead of running the team he’s been posting his head off on various forums.


    You know what I mean?

  7. Evan on October 8th, 2004 11:13 am

    Pedantry warning.

    You don’t tow the company line. You toe the company line.

    It’s a common error, which just means that I correct it a lot. Your observation in this case is that the company line is toed far less often.

  8. Rebecca Allen on October 8th, 2004 11:56 am

    Oh, come on. Look at the previous post! The M’s ownership isn’t going to allow Bavasi to spend big in the free agent market. They’ll do just what they did last year with Tejada: make a pretend play to appease the fans, fall short in the bidding, and then make lots of soothing noises about “the market is inflated,” “we’re not going to risk our future,” etc. Bavasi may want to run the team differently, but ownership is simply congenitally incapable of taking risks, and they won’t let him. Gillick may have agreed with ownership’s risk aversion, but it’s the ownership that makes the final decisions, and ultimately this has always been about them, more than who’s GM.

  9. rcc on October 8th, 2004 12:18 pm

    Great post. USS Mariner rocks! I will remain a skeptic of the Mariner Front Office until they produce results and not rhetoric, but this offseason will certainly be interesting.

  10. PositivePaul on October 8th, 2004 12:22 pm

    Let’s just hope that Bavasi learns from his mistakes and doesn’t go seriously after Delgado. I’d be OK with a SHORT deal for Delgado, but no more than 3 years $24 million. That would be “acceptable” but anything above that would be INSANE! He’s along the bloodlines of Mo Vaughn, Cecil Fielder, Kevin Mitchell, really, and I’m VERY concerned that this is going to be our “big” signing (at 5 years $50 million).

    Aggressive, yes, critic-silencing, no way in he11!!!

  11. Bob on October 8th, 2004 12:24 pm

    I am glad people who have access to the front office are giving us the facts. After reading the post and all the replies, even I am hopeful that the future is looking brighter.

  12. Gary on October 8th, 2004 12:40 pm

    Looks to me like the Bavasi “bashing” is similar to the “weapons of mass destruction” brouhaha (how long since you’ve seen that word used in a post?). If the Marine office was manipulating the press such that Bavasi appeared to be the prime mover of the bad deals, then we were perfectly justified in criticizing him based on the information given to us.

    If we are now presented with evidence that the information given us was false, we are justified in criticizing those who gathered or invented the information, mainly the Mariner front office and/or the sportswriters.

    Harsh words were spoken here and on other blogs about Bavasi and, by and large, there is no reason to criticize those who made those comments, because they were acting on what they believed was accurate information.

    No news source at the time said that Gillick made those bad deals. As a matter of fact, this very blog may have been closest when it started calling the front office GM combo Gilvasi.

    That being said, Bavasi’s predilection for aggressive hitters is still a source of concern for me.

    But more so, much more so, is the continued presence of Lincoln as a Mariner mover and shaker. As I have said before, Melvin and Bavasi didn’t hire themselves. I objected to their hirings because there appeared to be more interesting candidates.

    Overall the blog world usually gets it right: criticize and speculate immediately given the knowledge you are given, but don’t be afraid to change your mind when new information presents itself.

    That’s at least partially what’s happened here and I don’t really see anything to object to, other than Bavasi’s continued interest in guys who swing at the first pitch.

  13. John on October 8th, 2004 12:46 pm

    Re: #58
    For “PR” purposes only, since that is what Lincoln cares about, the M’s will swallow hard and outbid some people this year. Then in following years they will revert to the “be content to win 90 and contend” form. They do what they feel forced against their will to do, and then revert to their true nature. Bavasi will do his best within these parameters, but he will be prevented from succeeding long term. All we’ll be left with is a couple of premier players with huge contracts and no money left over when the M’s are forced to do cost cutting.

  14. John Hawkins on October 8th, 2004 1:48 pm

    If anyone is still paying attention…

    going back to the numbers for a minute, how many of the “kids” (Bucky, Olivo, Lopez, Mads, Mateo, Reed, Leone, Dobbs, Thornton, etc.) are going to be under $500k next year? The way I figure it, outside of the $55 million we have under contract (which doesn’t include Olivo), we need to fill about 15 big league roster spots. Even with $35+ million to spend, if we go after the Belt Boys with enough money to land them, we’ll need to fill a lot of those 15 spots with minimum or near-minimum wage guys. And if the M’s do land Beltran, Beltre, and Clement (or any other established ML starter), we will be spending way more than $37M this offseason.

    Which would be fine we me. I’d even pay an extra $2 bucks per ticket if it went to those guys.

  15. Nintendo Marios on October 8th, 2004 1:56 pm

    Great post; the best news Mariner fans have had in over a year.

    Nonetheless, because we are dealing with Howard Lincoln, Chuck Armstrong, Chris Larson and some billionaire who’s never even been to Safeco Field (has he?), I’ll be keeping my season ticket money in my pocket until after the Mariners sign top shelf talent.

    Howard & Chuck know all too well that talk is cheap and suckers are born every minute. If they can put butts in the seats by flapping their jaws, you know’ll they do it. Keep them scared.

  16. EA on October 8th, 2004 2:21 pm

    You would note that we regarded Bavasi as an average, unimpressive GM, likely hired more for his willingness to take direction than anything else…
    Which, in turn, means your whole argument about how unfair we’ve been to Bavasi is based on a bad premise, which is that we’ve been unfair to Bavasi.
    DMZ, Oct. 8

    Cons: Archaic evaluation, no knowledge of modern analytic tools, poor insight and uncreative, poor reasoning and investigative abilities, poor talent evaluation and understanding of positional scarcity, unable or unwiling to stand up to organization, unwiling or unable to make difficult decisions, poor lineup and roster construction as part of a larger inability to see the team or organization as a whole, by contrast also poor with details, no understanding of replacement level talent or its easy availability, overly reliant on older veteran players without understanding the consequences of doing so, inability to adapt… anaaaaaaaaaaaand now, dear readers, we add poor evaluation of managerial moves and talent.

    Bill Bavasi is to general managing what Jay Buhner is to broadcasting. DMZ, May 14

    If all those ‘cons’ add up to an average, unimpressive GM, what’s a bad one like?

  17. jemanji on October 8th, 2004 4:35 pm

    LOL EA. High fives.

    We could go back and dig up two dozen such “average, unimpressive” evaluations. Should I go back and dig up the quotes, and lay them alongside DMZ’s “where were you, Jemanji? We never said nuttin’ like dat! ” challenge?

    EA’s quote alone puts “paid” to the “who, us?” revisionism.


    It wouldn’t be a big deal EXCEPT FOR the fact that DMZ is trying to revise history — and thereby *forcing* us into demonstrating the obvious. … that USSM has been firmly in the Bavasi-bashing camp.


    Ken Starr wouldn’t have SPENT a bunch of time in court proving that Bill Clinton had sex with Monica — EXCEPT THAT Clinton ventured the claim, under oath, that “Act X” does not constitute sex! … whereupon ANY lawyer starts in, proving 19 ways from Sunday, that you CERTAINLY DID have sex, my friend. 🙂

    That’s not on the prosecutor. It’s on the defendant who makes such a ludicrous denial of the obvious.


    USSM has bashed, it has bashed bigtime, and now the readers need to understand that Bavasi never deserved it. Bavasi is on a clean slate. Move on.


  18. Jeremy on October 8th, 2004 4:42 pm



    I speak for everybody here when I say that. Thanks.

  19. cmolitor on October 8th, 2004 5:41 pm

    Bavasi may not be the one to blame for all of the bad moves made by the Mariner front office, but he certainly should be held responsible for some of them. Here is a list of some of the moves that were made:

    1)Raul Ibanez signing. This is not Bavasi’s doing and he should not be blamed for it (this may not have been a great move but it was not near as bad as many of the other moves).
    2)Rhodes non-tender. This is not really a Bavasi deal. This also does not seem to be a bad move.
    3)Hasegawa signing. This is a not really a Bavasi deal. Signing that turned out poorly. This turned out worse than most would have expected, but it was predicable that Hasegawa would have some dropoff.
    4)Mike Cameron non-tender. This is not really a Bavasi deal. I don’t think that this was a particularly good idea.
    5)Guillen trade. It seems that Gillick was very influential in this trade but Bavasi did not do anything to try to keep Guillen. Before this trade was made it looked like a poor trade, after this year it looks like an absolutely terrible trade. Bavasi should take some of the blame for this deal but most of it should go to Gillick
    6)Cabrera trade. This is a Bavasi deal. Not a bad trade.
    7)Aurilia signing. Bavasi gets at least some of the credit for this deal. This deal turned out worse than most people expected but even beforehand it looked like a bad signing.
    8)Garcia trade. Bavasi gets the credit for this deal. In my opinion this was a good trade. I think that the M’s will benefit from this trade for a while.
    9)Olerud waiver. This is a Bavasi deal. The Olerud waiver was the move that annoyed me the most about Bavasi. Olerud is not in his prime any more but waiving him (and paying his entire salary) in order to keep Bloomquist, Spezio, and several other poor players on the team seems like a poor move to me. I like the Bucky call up but it could have been done with more class. I think that this move made many fans angry, will make free agents less likely to choose Seattle, and reduced the competitiveness of the team.

    I think that Basasi has to be held at least partially responsible for the bad moves that the M’s made last year. If there is another bad year by the GM I think that Bavasi should be replaced. Gillick may take a lot of the blame for this year but he also gets a lot of the credit for putting together some of the good M’s teams.

    Jemanji, I don’t think that you can rationally expect us to be excited about Bavasi. I am all for being logical in our discussion of him but at least some of the blame for the last year is his.

  20. dmc on October 8th, 2004 6:01 pm

    well, actually, when the prosecutor bankrolls his crusade with millions of taxpayer dollars in an effort to prove that Clinton lied about a personal matter involving a perfectly legal exchange between consenting adults, a matter that was ultimately of no legitimate concern to anyone other than the parties involved, I would say it is on the prosecutor.

    Personally, I don’t think the debate over how negative the U.S.S. Mariner has been in its assessment of Bavasi is very interesting, The question of interest is whether or not the current GM is operating within either a conceptual or budgetary framework that will give him a realistic chance of making the Mariners a competitive franchise again anytime soon. There is evidence to suggest that he may be up to the task, and evidence to suggest that he isn’t, or at the very least, that the odds don’t appear to favor a successful outcome to the Bavasi era. Some may have strong opinions one way or the other, based either on an assessment of the GM himself, or the culture of the Front Office he must work within. Many of us don’t feel we know either way, even if we harbor suspicions that might suggest otherwise. If we can limit ourselves to points of argument that support our opinions, then the discussion will undoubtedly continue to be provocative.

  21. BBB on October 8th, 2004 8:04 pm

    Of the nine moves above, all look good to me except #5 and #7, and they go together. Cammy’s defense is awesome, but add a .231 hitter with his strikeouts to our lineup with that contract — uggh.

    Guillen is injury-prone. Too bad little O didn’t work out, and he still may for this off-season, assuming we get some other bats.

    Olerud was not about Spezio and Bloomquist, but clearly about Bucky. He looked good to me, although a short stint. He’s earned the right to seriously compete in the spring.

    Wait through the next 2-3 months before knocking Bavasi and the FO. The FO needed turnover, and this is THEIR season to play.

  22. Andy Metz on October 8th, 2004 8:39 pm

    Excellent article. I was unaware that Gillick influenced all of Bavasi’s decisions that way. Still, even with increased spending, I’m not optimistic for the Mariners. Even if Gillick pulled the strings, Bavasi was overly optimistic about duds like Quenten McCracken and Kevin Jarvis (anyone remember him?).

  23. cmolitor on October 8th, 2004 10:11 pm

    RE #71
    I know that the Olerud deal was clearly about bringing up Bucky and getting him playing time. I am a Bucky fan and I think that he was a good call up. However, I just think that Olerud was still worth a roster spot. In my opinion, it would have been better to get Spezio to go on the DL, option a different player to the minors, or waive a different player. In basketball they have players go on the DL that are not really hurt, I think that a creative GM may have been able to get Spezio on the DL. If this was done, when Bucky got hurt Olerud would have been able to go right back into the everyday lineup.

  24. stan on October 8th, 2004 10:37 pm

    re #73, I think Olerud sealed his fate when he turned down the trade to the Giants. If don’t know if Olerud told Bavasi he would accept a trade to the Yankees and no one else or if he told him he would refuse any trade. Olerud’s value to the Mariners at the all star break was solely as trade bait; with a no trade clause, Olerud held all the cards. I would hope Bavasi tried to make a deal that Olerud would accept, but I can’t blame Bavasi for releasing him if there was no deal to be made.

  25. Bela Txadux on October 9th, 2004 12:06 am

    I’m going to weigh in on two points here, one from in-thread, and then in a second post back to an assessment of Bill Bavasi’s value as an agent of change.

    I’m no fan at all of the Stars-and-Scrubs approach. I don’t think that Bavasi will go that way so I’m not too worried there, but I’ll certainly go play squash for 2-3 years with the radio off if he and his uns do.

    Stars-and-Scrubs teams can be reasonably relied upon to make the playoffs if you do this well, but they seldom do anything at all there except roll over and go ‘arf.’ In the post-season, you face better pitching and the games tighten up, certainly in the early innings. You have to play consistent D; the better defensive teams win most of the time. You have to get some important hits out of the bottom of your lineup. Deep bullpens really, really matter unless you’re a no-hoper and blown out in three straight. Baseball is a _matchup_ game, and facing a *-and-~ team there are many, many weaknesses where _you_ can win the match up: pitch around their two big bats; hang close against their one dominant starter but blow their other two guys out; beat up the soft part of their bullpen for the late lead so their dominant closer is a non-factor. The only recent *-and-~ team I can think of off hand who made the Series was the ’02 Giants—and they deservedly lost to a better team that played 25-man ball. Maybe the Mets and the Phillies, too, and they both got greased as well.

    A further problem with the *-and-~ approach is that the team and hence organization becomes hostage to the whims/performances of two or three stars. Because the team can’t win without the big guys, the other players start to lean on them like a crutch too much of the time, at least psychologially. Because the Stars are the marketing face of the organization rather than the TEAM and its history, they can quite literally lie back in their barcaloungers and go to conditioning drills when they feel like it and walk out of the locker room and go home to sulk on the season’s last day when they’re not in the lineup, and management is then caught up in a doublebind of their own making. The ’93-’97 Mariners were your basic Stars-and-Scrubs outfit; does anyone look back on that era fondly?? The team had no bullpen; no depth in the rotation; always a couple of subreplacement players around, at 3b, 1b, and LF except when Edgar was in the field. They clawed their way into the playoffs twice and got dropkicked into the offseason just as fast as their composition would suggest. I, _personally_, do not want to watch that approach employed by any organization I root for. It’s for losers with bills to pay IMNSHO.

    Stars-and-Subs has two positive effects for the franchises which practice it. One, it allows teams with budget constraints to but a Few Famous Faces before the fans, and keep the community interested. Second, it keeps the seats somewhat filled because the team ‘contends’. The ’05 Ms will have an ample budget. They manifestly need a rebuild rather than a couple of stars to ‘contend,’ and per the topic of this thread it seems the FO gets this, which is good. Ergo, it seems less and less like they’re headed the *-and-~ way.

  26. Bela Txadux on October 9th, 2004 1:59 am

    If I follow your drift in starting this thread, Dave, your contention is, in essence, that an old, fragmented regime really made all the decisions that counted before April ’04, and bear the brunt of the blame for the season. Bavasi’s hands were largely tied prior to that, and when he could move the team was a disaster site; Bill _does_ understand that many stiffs need to be cast over the side and expects to proceed accordingly. Bavasi is a man who has a track record of prefering not only stars but more broadly superior athletes. It has been given to you to leak via blog to the agents of the Belt Brothers that the Ms will be in it for ’em to the bitter end sw’elp us God. We, the blogopolitans, could then (should is up to us) feel somewhat more positive about Bavasi’s potential for The Good, and as fans root the FO and team on a tad during the upcoming no doubt difficult negotiations full of thrills and spills.

    And largely I agree with you on this, as per my comments in #9 above. In particular, the fact that ten guys perhaps will be replaced from the ’04 team is the most positive news I cling to. I am less sanguine about Bavasi based upon issues _manifestly related to HIS performance_ in this past season, and in his record overall, and by no means reassured by the statement that Clement/Beltran/Beltre are at the top of his sheet.

    ARRRGH! I hate slanging anyone, if you can believe that, so I’ll start by being nice. Bill’s main attribute that I like is that he treats people right, by and large, and that is SO _RARE_ in the corporate world: he’s loyal; he hires other guys in the game who he thinks deserve it; he handles his ego rather than let’s it handle him; he doesn’t diss _anyone_; he’s totally professional in his own conduct. Bill, [I know you’re listening] I think you’re a decent human being, and you can be my boss anytime [although I’m a very un-bossable employee, as anyone reading my posts should know by now, and you’d find me a total pain-in-the-ass, if a low maintenance one]. Furthermore, the draft this year looked pretty sound, and anything done there is a positive as long as the international signings of recent years continue to flow, because that is where Gillick’s approach has paid off quite well. The Ms should continue to be a major player in Venezuela, a real gold mine, and be very active in E Asia, absolutely. And can we stop hammerin’ Poor Ole Bill on (Un-)Mighty Mo Vaughn? Early in this year, Bavasi went on record in saying that his owner told him pointblank to sign Mo’ even though he, Bavasi, didn’t want to. Now, quite aside from the fact that one thing Bill B. also is _not_ on the evidence is a liar, is the fact that a half-dozen FO guys from Anaheim, a couple of agents, and that said former owner are all alive and kickin’ to call him on this if he’s talking though his hat [a fedora Bill; I’ve got your hair, too, and I wear one, looks great]. I believe Bavasi on this, that Mo’s signing wasn’t of his own will, and unless someone else can prove he’s playin’ us we’ve just got to let go of this one. Please.

    Let’s start with big triangular offseason goal of Bill’s, Clement/Beltran/Beltre. I’m not going to talk about these guys beyond saying I like Clement period, he’s the best pitching value on the market this offseason IMO, and I hope the Ms sign him and think they’ve got a very good shot; this post is about Bavasi not the players. I’ve said elsewhere, and will reiterate that I think it unlikely that the other two will sign here—unless the Ms radically ovepay, say six years north of $13M per. Which I sincerely hope they DO NOT offer under any circumstances, even a bad ’05 season, because deals like that nearly always end up just plain bad. Otherwise, I think that the Ms will stay in the deal for 3+ weeks just bidding up the prices that they Yankees and Dodgers will eventually have to pay for the guys. This is great, great news for those two player’s agents, but doesn’t do much for me. And by the time THAT is all done, Drew, Glaus [your favorite Ferrari in the window] will have signed with someone else, because you can’t credibly negotiate on two guys for the same position at the same time now can you?, and the other guys are going to attract buyers, too. The fact that the Ms FO is going after the Belt Bros. doesn’t tell me that Bavasi or any of them are any smarter, just that they can read the paper, want to be lucky, and have some real cash to spend. Even if they break the bank at Monte Carlo on this. I’m reasonably happy if they sign both those guys; I don’t see that happening, but even if it does I’m interested in what Bavasi brings to the table on the _rest_ of the rebuild.

    Now, Dave, I _don’t_ buy the full contention that you made at the start, that Bavasi had full control over no decisions until April. He was told to trade Guillen, so much was clear. He had the responsibility for who he brought back, Ramon Martinez [have I got that name right? It’s late.] Bavasi actually seemed to convince the existing braintrust to at least make an [no-hope] offer to Cameron, I’m inclined to put that in the + column for Bill. The Aurilia deal was groupthink, and Bavasi said in print that ‘everyone thought it was an upgrade,’ but he’s on the ticket here, too. As I’ve said in other posts, Rich should have been a ‘red flag’ player, and anyone who was surprised on this was seeing what they wanted to see. Spezio seems to me to have been a Bavasi sign unless you have proof positive that someone else made the move. Cabrera certainly was. Villone was a good guess, and worked well: kudos. He’s a great one to do a Hasegawa next year, having been an up-and-down guy his whole career, and now 35; let’s see if Bavasi keeps his bet for another year. Myers ends up being a neutral value (“Bob, what cheap toy do you want most?” “A LOOGY, Bill, so I Can Be a Major League Manager.”) This leaves Bavasi in the hole for Martinez, Spezio, Cabrera, and (Aurilia X .5).

    Dave, you say that Bavasi has a history of prefering all-around athletes, not broken down vets. What I say is that Bavasi has a history of preferring toolsy guys with bad marginals, good athletes who don’t walk, may or may not have power, but don’t have particularly good approaches at the plate. The four guys we just mentioned fit this matrix just all too well, ‘cept for Aurilia who was a _limited_ athlete (but also was brought in as a 1-2 year patch, so). My recollection of Bavasi in Anaheim is that the team HE BUILT did not play particularly good defense, nor did they necessarily play especially good fundamental baseball, nor did they keep a full bullpen (although that may have been a $ issue); all of these are a big part of why the collapsed down the stretch in ’95. Bavasi comes HERE and makes it plain that he’s willing to trade defense for ‘a little bit of offense,’ and his only position players all fit his old time matrix. Small sample?? Not if it confirms the trend. I question whether Bavasi has changed his approach on what kind of _skills_ he looks for in those great athletes. Beltran and Beltre play great D, yes, they also don’t work the count quite as much as one would like. They may both be good enough this doesn’t matter all that much, but in the other acquisions Bavasi will make, in the absence of these or in addition further down the roster, it WILL matter. I don’t think Bavasi has changed his approach at all, and I don’t want to watch Anaheim ’97 II, here in Seattle ’05. Bill is probably a smarter man than this summary suggests, it’s just that one can’t tell that from the available evidence—that’s what worries me.

    But there’s more. : ) Who decided to make Matt Thornton into a starter? Who brought him up for a major league trial as a starter with an ERA north of 7.00? Who brought up a struggling Clint Nageotte with shaky control and an ERA at 5.50 and stuck _him_ in the rotation for a couple of starts, to now be an Official Disappointment? Who flooded the bullpen with so many arms in mid-August that NOBODY could get enough playing time to stay sharp or show much?? (Not that anybody could have gotten time since BoMelGoMelGone was pushing all his starters to go eight.) Watching Mouse Kida was fun in its way, but what did we learn from it other than Bill Bavasi has a soft heart? When we needed to find out if Thornton and Atchison have any role in relief and any accrued value in trade. McCracken and Aurilia had to be axed yes, and I certainly don’t hold Jarvis against Bill, he had no choice on that it’s obvious. Olerud’s DFA was a more questionable move—and then we here that BoMel was non grata because ‘guys we let go performed better elsewhere,’ (Olerud being the glaring example). Way to take responsibility there, Big Bill, Buck Stops ->. GM makes the call, GM should take the fall (not that Olerud has _really_ performed better, nor that McCracken going from a new league in a tough park to Homer Sweet Home in AZ should mean anything). When Bucky came up it sure didn’t _look_ like the FO was in any hurry or certainty to give him a full shot in a lost season; it wasn’t until Jacobsen rocketed some jacks and looked much better at the plate than expected that scrambles about were scrabble and calls to BoMel seemingly put through and regular PT started to happen for the Big Guy.

    Folks give a lot of credit to Bavasi on the Chicago deal, but I don’t see too much. Kenny Williams has never met a young player he liked better than a used diaper, Guillen and Garcia: twins separated at birth was a story _in the offseason_ that’s how obvious the call was, and Bob Fontaine came over from the Sox and knew just which players to hold out for—on top of which this deal was made FOR THE CATCHER, anybody remember that?? Bill’s part in all this was just to answer the phone until Williams came across. [I’m harshing on this one, Bill, feel free to refute, but this is how it looked and looks TO ME.]

    —And then let’s not forget Miguel Olivo, Official Disappointment. Now, his late season struggles were ugly, and he’s no finished player. But. He just finished his second (2nd) year in the Bigs. He came up in an organization, Chicago, which neither teaches nor plays good fundamental baseball, and hasn’t since Aparicio played there. He went from a playoff contender (supposedly but) with his buddies to a no-hope, shellshocked outfit officially ‘out of it,’ had to learn not just an entire new pitching staff, but _two_ staffs just about with all the new faces brought in to pitch after his arrival. Anybody think this isn’t going to affect the guy mentally, a guy still working to establish _himself_ at the big league level? Miguel Olivo may be a non-self-starter based on details the team knows but sensibly and professionally isn’t going to hash over in the press, I can’t know that. But sending him down to AZ after catching a FULL SEASON????? Man, give the guy ten weeks off to let his body bounce back, and clear away the ugly taste of this year and how it ended for him, THEN drill him till he drops in January to get ready for camp. To me, this all seems more like a punishment drill then the Catching 301 seminar he obviosly needs. So why now? Seems to me management is worried Olivo won’t cut it, and wants to know sooner rather than later so they can ‘make adjustments’ in the offseason. If so, it makes a certain sense—but remember, Bavasi signed off of the deal FOR THE CATCHER. Reed was the deal premium, not the dealmaker. Olivo may or may not deserve this, but I don’t like how it plays out, i.e. blame game, and there’s been way too much of that here rather than, “We’re getting better and we think you need to go for us to get there, thanks and so long.”

    All of this sound a bit catty and pickin’ o’ the nits?? I list it all because to me it’s a pattern of muddling through, not of incisive assessments of players and their skills. Assessing Bavasi on the moves he has made in toto, the only real and fair way to do it, not to pick out supposed homeruns, or supposed blunders, shows to me that this man plays ‘hope so’ too much of the time, and has to SEE talent play with his own eyes before he guets a real feel for what a guy can do. And that was my recollection of Bavasi fils in Anaheim, too. I think he’s the same man. And that’s what worries me. I haven’t been launching RPGs at the team box for the last few weeks because I blame Bavasi for trading Guillen (who BTW was on the DL for the final month for a knee. Who has a great chance to be hurt on and off for the length of his deal, and make Detroit a wiser organiazation. And I say that as someone who always liked Carlos, and believed for four years that he had a season like this one in him). I’ve been harshing on Bill because of the moves _actually under his control_, and the extent to which they suggest that his talent assessment is a) in a model I don’t care for with a record under him of less than success, and b) prone to lurches and ‘what-ifs.’ Bill Bavasi, prove me wrong, PLEASE—but we should absolutely keep the pressure on Bavasi to make talent-smart moves, not wing-and-a-prayers. Let’s kiss his smilin’ mug AFTER he finishes the rebuld c. Jan ’05. He hasn’t earned beans yet.

    [But win or lose, Bill, I’ll buy yah a beer. Just because. ; ) ]

  27. Bela Txadux on October 9th, 2004 3:50 am

    Ramon _Santiago_; it IS late.

  28. Jim on October 9th, 2004 3:58 am

    In reply to tede in #38: Yes, Bavasi signed Mo Vaughn and that was a noticeably stupid and insane long-term deal at the moment he made it (I believe Bill James neatly summarized reasonable expectations for Vaughn after age 30 with the phrase “…carrying a piano…”). That doesn’t invalidate the stars-and-scrubs approach; any approach fails with no talent evaluation or understanding of the effects of age. I wasn’t arguing that Bavasi would execute that strategy well, just that there are interesting reasons why it can be used to manage risk.

    To Bela Txadux in #75: I think you’ve made an extensive counterargument against something I never argued. When I say “stars-and-scrubs”, I’m talking about a salary strategy not a quality strategy. Yes, great teams with few weaknesses win championships, that is obvious; the question is how to get there. Signing deals of 3+ years with medium-priced free agents who play at or near league-average quality kills the team, because risks are enhanced without being offset by greater rewards. When those players suck the team is forced to play them anyway for long periods of time, unlike a cheap player. When they perform as expected it’s still a problem because, unlike a cheap player, it’s then difficult to upgrade at that position. If they do outperform expectations, that’s great but good organizations get that in the low price range by developing good young players rather than paying $4 million a season for them. Consistently acquiring many middle-tier players means that if they don’t all coincidentally overperform at the same time the club locks up lots of roster space and money at a sub-championship level of quality, until the team *can’t* improve further. What the s-and-s strategy seeks at each position is either (a) an elite player signed long-term (b) an expensive short-term signing or (c) one or more cheap players who can be playing elsewhere tomorrow if necessary. It views the 3-year $12m contract to a league-average player as a foolish concession of flexibility, not worth the gain in cost and performance certainty.

  29. Frank Locy on October 9th, 2004 1:31 pm

    All the conjecture is a great read, but not hoping to seem like a pessimist, didn’t Howard Lincoln say that the driving force behind the Mariners was not the world series, but the bottom line? Correct me if I am wrong, but nothing is really going to change with the team until someone else is president of the club. So many chances have slipped through their fingers in the last 2 years because of budgetary concerns. I love watching this team, but I have no aspirations of them ever being a contender.


  30. Jonathan on October 9th, 2004 2:49 pm

    What a bizarre thread. Why exactly do the Bavasi fans feel justified based on this past year of attacking those who criticized Bavasi’s arrival as “unfair?” 2004 has to rank as one of the colossal GM office failures of all time. To praise Bavasi based on 2004 is a bit like praising Bush for his first term economic record. (Yes we turned massive projected surpluses into massive projected deficits, but look – we also lost 1.6 million private sector jobs! Backslaps all around.)

    Like Bush, Bavasi is justified in laying some – some but not that much – blame on his predecessor. Gillick did have some strengths to go with his weaknesses. Other than the Garcia trade, are there successes in Bavasi’s approach or record we should be shouting about? Not in Seattle so far, nor that I can recall with the Angels previously.
    Not scowling can only take one so far as a qualification to be leader in these troubled baseball times.

  31. Bela Txadux on October 9th, 2004 9:01 pm

    Hey, there, Jim,

    I wasn’t focused on any one individual’s remarks per the S-and-s strategy as there were multiple comments, so nothing personal, and furthermore I agree with one statement in #78, that our arguments are not, as posed, convergent.

    I’ve _never_ argued, here or anywhere, for signing medium-priced free agents, nor do I think it’s anything but foolish to sign at-or-near league-average talent to 3+ year contracts no matter what the $ value involved. In those respects I’m sure that we agree. I definitely think it’s better to develop good, young players who give a team comparable value, sure. And 3-year, $12M deals to league average guys isn’t a ‘foolish concession’ in my book: it’s cause for termination for the FO person who does it, or should be. And I’m sure that most organizations, regardless of philosophy agree with two main points which I understand you to be making here: 1) sign your genuine stars long-term, and 2) don’t give league average guys more than 2 years. Personally, while I’ve never argued _against_ signing Star players at face value I’m not a believer in signing even Stars for longer than 4 years, and for a smart organization with a good player development pipeline, I’d be willing to let a Star player walk if they want more—but pay them top dollar plus a premium for those years as necessary; but that’s me. The problems with this last are: 1) in the market of the last 7-8 years you can’t sign _Star_ free agents for 4 or under unless they’ve been injured, and 2) sometimes your homegrown talents don’t bloom until right on top of their walk year so you haven’t gotten them locked in before they are, in effect -pre-free agents, like Beltre. Oh well.

    The problems with the S-and-s which you advocate, as expressed again in #78 if I follow you, Jim, are: 1) you are _totally_ hostage to the fat, long-term deals to your 2-3 stars. If they go down like Griffey or Jermaine Dye, you are just, plain screwed, ’cause the money is gone, and worse _NO ONE_ will take the player, so you can’t refocus your team around a new roster mix. In the end, you often just have to eat the contract and live poor for a couple of years, like Tampa did with Greg Vaughn, and like Cincinatti would have to do except that Kenny is going to be out of OB a year from now, and so the Reds should hold on and collect whatever insurance they can, seems to me. And what do you do if your ‘Star’ simply takes his attitude south, like Garciaparra, even while the community is still in love with him. (Do like Epstein tried to do with Ramirez and succeeded in doing with Nomar: give ’em away. And get a guy who wants to play, like Cabrera and Millar. Great moves, Theo, yo da man. Those loveable Cubs are welcome to wrap their big soft hearts around Nomar and clutch him to their big soft heads. Cuddled up in front of the telly each and every October, yup, lovebirds.)

    2) Behind your stars, you have constant roster churn, like in SF, because outside of your stars you have either short-term, high $ deals (half of which give you zero, BTW, so the gamble is only worth making if you’re going for it _this_ year), or replacement level guys who are offereing you so little you have to make a move on 3-4 of them anyway.

    No one has the perfect strategy, Jim, and I’m no genius here, either. Here, for the record, is what I think _in general_ is the optimal approach. 1) Always, _always_, assemble a 25-man team. Every roster spot is precious: it can be held by a guy who can do something to help you win, preferrably by a guy who does at least _two_ things well, or fills a single, but absolutely useful role (pinch hitter in the NL; neutralizes lefties out of the pen; etc.). There are PLENTY of guys in the high minors or non-tendered who can fill out _your_ roster; give ’em the shot, keep the one or two who make it, and bring in the next couple just as fast.

    2) Have the best player development program that money and brains can put together. Think about it: running a high-end farm system each year costs less (or about the same) as a paying a single Star player with a blown out back. There is absolutely no excuse, none, period, for having a mediocre player development program. I thought this thirty years ago; every stat oriented approach I’ve ever seen leans this way; fiscally this is the most rational line of approach. Whether you keep your own young ‘uns or deal ’em is a function of the present skill mix of your big league roster, but you have options this way.

    3) Mix of skills on the roster is more important than absolute talent levels as long as the team is above an effective threshold. If you are looking for D, you may take a guy with some pop but few walks if he’s at a key position; alternatively, your superhigh OBP guy may not matter as much if you have no power in the roster. Your fantastic set up guy may be better off dealt if he’s 35 no matter how good he is if you’ve got a couple of sound guys behind him and want to keep your options open. That innings-eater #5 starter looks like a dog on both the superstar World Series team and the 99 loss rope-a-dope one, but he’s just the guy you need for your high-on-base offense with a killer bull pen: bingo, 17 wins. Baseball is a _matchup_ game, and your MINIMUM job at GM is to get a team that has few weaknesses and many ways of matching up for a win. I have very little respect for GMs whose team always has a glaring hole, like John Hart’s inability to build a starting rotation (never has, and so I’ll say never will until he does it).

    4) The team is more important than the Stars. Never, ever be unwilling to dump, trade, or wave bye-bye to your biggest names if you can be a better team with different guys in their place. Now, a GM can blow it big time here (think Rocky Colavito for Harvey Kuenn), and I’m not advocating dumping great players willfully or even readily. But. But never mortgage yourself to a few players who, at this moment, are great. Star players can most definitely help you win, are sometimes a joy to watch, and most certainly help to ‘sell’ the team to the community, this last being their real, no. 1 value to an organization. (Although the absolute worst decision of the last fifteen years in MLB in my view was the owners’ decision to adopt a marketing strategy built aroung ‘Star recognition’ per the advisory of a PR flak as a way of repairing the public disaffection from the first strike. The owners’ completely handed over the community identity of their organizations to a handful of players, who of course said ‘Double my salary or I’ll take your identity with me;’ might as well have handed they guys your wallet, bank account #s, and wife, and said, Please give them back to me when you’re done with them.) One cannot replace Stars with mid-tier free agents, I agree (although one _can_ replace them with high-value, homegrown talent). But as soon as you’ve locked in a Big Guy for six at $$$, you’ve just bet your next five years on his health and state of mind. I, personally would rather TRADE him for a roughly comparable guy signed for four at $$ and spend the remaining $/2 for Bucky Jacobsen and Matt Clement. Even if only one of the latter two comes through along with the four at $$ guy, I’ve got two guys to help me win now rather than one. Never let yourself be owned by your stars; keep the community identified with the _team_ and its history. This is another way of saying, I don’t care if it’s Drew or Beltran as long as the overall context of talent meshes well and is superior over all. The Ms front office cares—because this team now has only one star who declines to speak English (he can) and doesn’t ‘work the community’ for them, and they are planning on buying off the open market the ‘team identity’ they’ll be selling to the public in ’05: This is the primo reason Three Big(gish) names are at the top of Bill’s To-do List.

    I, personally, don’t go to a ballpark to watch a Star play, but I’m different, I know; I go to watch a team execute. I’m perfectly happy to see A-Rod launch a 3-run jack, but as happy and more to see McLemore start a DP which kills the other team, and JJ Putz come out of the pen to hammer in his sinker for two key outs. It’s a match-up, execution game, and A-Rod only plays one position and bats one-among-nine. It didn’t bother me at all, here in Seattle, to see Randy or Junior moved—they deserved it, ’cause they’d quit on the team, the organization, and the community, rightly or wrongly, but it was their move, and they’d made it. A-Rod wanted more $$$$-and-years than was rational to sign him for: bye bug, Big Guy. Bone and Edgar never quit, and were productive in the line-up to the very end of their careers—but that is the point, they were productive as well as loyal.

    So why do owners always get Stars in their eyes, hey?? ‘Cause it’s the Rich Man’s way of collecting baseball cards, they buy the players behind the pictures. But that isn’t to say it’s an optimal approach to building a winning team, only a feasible approach of building a high-recognition team.

  32. Jim on October 10th, 2004 12:14 am

    I agree with everything you’re saying, Bela, except that I don’t think that a complete miss with a very expensive player leaves a team completely screwed. That’s the tendency on teams that make a lot of mid-price signings; if you can’t upgrade anywhere because most positions are locked and most of the budget is tied up in guys that help the team tread water, then having $10m fly out a window is devastating. The outcome can be very different for a team like the Yankees, to whom that happens all the time, or for a team without money to burn that structures salary more intelligently. It takes many outstanding performances to win a championship, and it’s reasonable to expect some of those to come from long-term contracts in free agency. I’ve concluded that the elite players, even at the going rate, offer a better overall shot at that level of performance than signing mid-priced players. You seem to imply a more revolutionary approach, which would be to blow most of the player money not on salaries but on an unprecedentedly well-financed scouting and development program. In that scheme, one almost never signs players long-term for high salaries, relying on trades and development to reload at every turn. If that’s what you’re pointing to, then I agree that it shows a lot of promise. I’d love to see someone try it, but it’s hard to imagine any current organization changing to that strategy because it’s a tough “sell” on every level.

  33. stan on October 10th, 2004 12:57 am

    One of the problems I see in a stars and scrubs approach is being able to identify accurately who is a the star and who is the scrub. When the 2001 season started I would have paid Brett Boone to be a scrub and, if he was available, Roberto Alomar to be a star. There are some players who obviously fit the star role: Arod, Bonds, Pujols, Miguel Cabrera are, at least in my mind, head and shoulders above their contemporaries. With the exception of Bonds because of his age I can see giving a six or seven year contract to those types of players. A guy whose name gets mentioned here quite a bit, Adrian Beltre, is in my mind a much riskier acquisition. I would rather see Bavasi and the Mariners spread the money around than give long term, high dollar, deals to the Beltre’s of the free agent class. Give me a line-up of better than average players at each position, along with a deep pitching staff and a decent bench. Stars should not necessarily be avoided, but unless you are dead solid certain that the player is a star, I would prefer to spend money on a roster of better than average players so that you can avoid playing scrubs.

  34. Jerry on October 10th, 2004 10:03 am

    All this discussion of whether USSMariner has given Bavasi a fair chance is pretty irrelevant. Lets all move on. This year was painful, and now everyone (fans, front office, players) need to focus on 2005.

    This offseason, we have a really unprecedented opportunity to evaluate Bavasi. I think that everyone would be wise to suspend judgment on his qualities as a GM until next May (or perhaps the 2005 trade dealine). I really believe that the previous regime was making more of the decisions than Bavasi was up until this point. Now, it is Bavasi’s team to either improve or ruin.

    Very rarely does a GM have such a clean slate to deal with. Bavasi basically has a club that is at rock bottom:

    -only 10 players signed to contracts
    -no locks to return in the coaching staff
    -a $95 million payroll
    -tons of financial flexibility in an offseason with good depth of talent in free agency
    -another $25 million coming off the books after 2005

    Very rarely does a new GM have this combination of opportunities. Most rebuilding teams have very limited payrolls. Most high-payroll teams have less flexibility and money to spend. Regardless of what you all think about Bavasi right now, we will get a very good opportunity to evaluate him over the course of the next year.

    I think that the most important differences between Bavasi and Gillick are the broader philosophical issues. Any single free agent acquisition is really just a crap-shoot. It is the big-picture perspectives on how to run a franchise that is the most important thing. The key points in Dave’s excellent post above is how Gillick and Bavasi differ regarding the traits that the front office will value in free agents, and how the team approaches the draft.

    It is nice to hear that Bavasi was not as involved in some of the bad moves of the last offseason as we might have thought. However, the things in Dave’s post that are the most encouraging for me is his approach to the draft. The M’s have really limited their options by their inability to use the draft to bring in talent. Think about how much better this wasted season would have been if the M’s had not pissed away their top picks on dumb moves in free agency (2004 and 2000), bad picks (like Garciaparra), or unwillingness or inability to sign picks (2002). The draft is crucial in maintaining a winning team. One of the greatest failings of the ‘old regime’ is an inability to use the draft to bring in young talented players. The M’s have had a great deal of success in scouting foreign players and in picking out solid players from the independent leagues. Just think about where this team would be if they had half as much success as teams like the Braves, Twins, Rangers, and Angels have had in the amateur draft.

    The M’s will lose a few picks by signing free agents this offseason. But since the M’s have the financial resources to go after and sign top players in the draft, they need to do so. Tuiasosopo was a good pick in this regard, and I am glad that the M’s did everything they could to sign him. He was a steal in the 3rd round.

    If the M’s are going to build a team that will be good for the long-term, they need to develop young players to replace old players. The Braves are a perfect model to follow. They are not afraid to let players leave, or to trade veterans before they are washed up, because they are consistently able to replace veterans with good prospects from their farm system. Because the Braves seem to always have a high-level prospect waiting in the wings, they can afford to trade guys like Andruw Jones (who is still very attractive to other teams) for a package of prospects or an established player to fill needs. This allows teams to continue to bring in prospects through trades, while keeping their payroll down. If the M’s can build a solid farm system to infuse the team with cheap talent, they can afford to trade expensive players for prospects, like they did in the Garcia trade. Good teams make trades like that even when they are not out of contention.

    I would like to see the M’s use the draft better. This will help them replace older players with young, cheap talent, instead of relying on free agent signings like Spiezio. Even if Spiezio had produced at his career averages, that same level of production could have been achieved by a top prospect. I hope that the M’s can acquire a player like Justin Upton with the #3 overall pick in 2005, regardless of how much it will cost them to sign him. In 2-3 years, a player like Upton will be ready to come up and replace some higher-priced player on the team. Then, the M’s will hopefully be able to trade a guy with value for more prospects. This is the formula for building a strong team. The M’s have good pitching depth in their farm system. Hopefully they will be able to trade someone like Pineiro or Meche in a few years, when they still have value, and replace them with someone like Felix, Blackley, or Nageotte.

    I like that Bavasi will be shifting emphasis to athletic young players. In the draft, I hope that they focus on toolsy, athletic position players and college pitchers. The M’s can hedge their bets with continued success in signing foreign prospects from Asia, Latin America (particularly Venezuela), and Australia. This offseason is going to be all about free agents, but I hope that the team can shift to filling needs internally in a few years.

  35. Jerry on October 10th, 2004 10:14 am

    I think that a lot of people are missing the point with the ‘stars and scrubs’ concept. I do agree that the best teams include a mixture of high-priced stars with younger players who far outperform their salaries. But I disagree with the definition of ‘scrubs’ that most of you are using. A better way to describe what the M’s need to do is a ‘stars and bargains’ approach.

    It is hard to find players that will far outperform their salaries in free agency and trades. It is much easier to get solid production for little money out of players from the farm system. Players like Hank Blalock, Miguel Cabrera, Mark Prior, Justin Morneau, Francisco Rodriguez, and other cheap, productive players are just not available in free agency or trades without giving up quality in return. The M’s have the financial resources to have 4-5 players with high salaries (> $10 million), but they need to get production out of guys on minimum contracts in order to field an all-around solid team. The draft is the best way to do this. If Bavasi can turn around the teams horrible track-record in the amateur draft, and continue to utilize the infrastructure of foreign scouting that the team has built, the M’s can build a team that will be good for years.

    The M’s will likely add at least 2-3 star players in free agency. But even if these guys perform to expectations, the key to the team’s success is the development of the young players on minimum salaries. If Reed, Olivo, Bucky, Madritsch, Nageotte, Blackley, and Lopez can contribute significantly to the team, the M’s will be surprisingly good. If one or two of these guys plays at a very high level and develop into elite players, the M’s will be much much closer to contention. This is what the M’s should be trying to do. Building a foundation of talent in the farm system, and getting consistent production from 1 or 2 guys on minimum salaries, will allow the M’s to build a good team while investing in a few big contracts.

    You just can’t rely on signing mediocre free agent veteran players who will far exceed expectations, like Boone and Shiggy. The best way to get cheap production are young players. Reed, Olivo, Bucky, Madritsch, Nageotte, Blackley, and Lopez will play just as important a role in the success of the M’s in 2005 as the free agents that we are all so excited about. If the M’s can get solid production from both the expensive and the inexpensive players, they will be set. But the team does need to change its approach to the draft if they are going to have sustained success.

  36. The Ancient Mariner on October 10th, 2004 3:13 pm

    The problem with “a roster of better-than-average players” is that it leaves little room for improvement. There are no places in such a roster where it’s possible to improve the team dramatically with one signing or trade, and there are no clear openings (barring injury) for prospects to work their way in and improve the team. As well, players who are merely above average tend to be expensive for the production they provide, so such a team would have little financial flexibility.