Bavasi's Philosophy: 'Lil of Everything
This off-season has provided us with a model to see Bill Bavasi's true influence as the General Manager of the Seattle Mariners, and possibly throughout baseball. He has reinvented a small-ball, known quantity club into the Stars&Scrubs approach that has added real power to the lineup, solidified the defense and rewards proven talent.
I have previously asserted HERE, that he is a man that will utilize any methodology to improve the team. He is not tied down to any traditional concepts and that he is willing to adapt to innovations. His recent addition of Mat Olkin to the front office staff gives some credence to this. What else can we discover from this off-season about Bavasi's style as a General Manager?
This should be the most obvious of his qualifications. He is a baseball mind; he respects the scouts, and lauds their performance. His knowledge of the tools of his entire team is extensive. Such a believer is Bavasi in his scouts that he recently publicly stated that Reed is a seven, on a ten point scale, defensively in center field.
From all of his comments concerning the signings of Beltre and Sexson we further find that he is believer that power trumps all other tools, but he is not one to discount the influence of defense. Looking at the Diamond Reports of Beltre and Sexson we can find more details about Bavasi's belief in scouts.
There is power in them there bats. Lightning fast swings that carry a ball deep. They aren't confined to the lefty pull, but built for any park, at any elevation. There are 90+ home runs trapped in those two torsos of torque. They aren't like Carlos Delgado that would play just for the home park, but for the dozens of parks in the majors. They aren't Troy Glaus that pulls so much as to be hurt by the home park. And both scout in a way that trumps five distributed tools, with the one that is the best indicator of greatness, hitting for power.
He filled team needs, the two corners, both with the best defensive player available and with the second and third best power bats available. Neither are built for the ballpark, but the scouts say they can hit them anywhere the pitcher throws them and often for four bases. No two players fit the approach of Bavasi better from a scouting aspect, none.
The Mariners top four offensive targets during the Hot Stove Season were Carlos Delgado, Troy Glaus, Beltre, and Sexson. These were not only four of the most highly rated bats available during the off-season, they were also the four bats with the most connections to the front office - and the Puget Sound. Carlos Delgado still has a relationship of mutual affection with senior Mariners advisor Pat Gillick. Mr. Gillick even met with Delgado, bringing along the scout that signed Delgado for the meeting.
That scout is not in the employ of the Mariners, nor Gillick, the scout went along due to his ties between the player and the former GM. These connections were not enough to get the deal signed, but they were public and influential.
Troy Glaus didn't sign with the club either, but he also was wooed by a former GM of his own, now with the Seattle Mariners. Bill Bavasi signed Glaus, and oversaw his development into a power hitting third baseman. Bavasi could overlook injury history as he knew Glaus personally and still knows many of the front office personnel in the Angels organization. Here again, the deal failed, but was influenced by past connections.
Signing Sexson was the Mariners first foray into the big market for a non-club-controlled player. He wanted to come home, or at least that was part of it. I'm certain that the four years and $50 million helped. Sexson's network of attachments did not connect to the fans, but to the community where he was raised, to the voice that taught him baseball, and the team that used to play under a concrete sky. Without Sexson, the greatest signing in the history of the team might never have happened.
Five years, $64 million dollars and change. Two men that had known each other for a few years already, as their paths crossed in the Southern California sun. One being a young, blossoming run producer and the other was a former GM that sat and watched his old club, the one he built, win a World Series with the formula he had installed.
Adrian Beltre signed a deal with the only team that knew him well. Not the Dodgers, the team that brought him up and hired a new GM a year ago, but an M's club, who hired their own GM last winter – a former Dodgers personnel man. Bavasi knew more of Beltre's positives and negatives better than any GM in the game and the player-front office relationship was enough to lure the 10-year Dodger employee out of the sun and into the northwest.
Would Beltre have signed with the team if Bavasi wasn't a part of the equation? Maybe.
Would the Mariners have offered the largest contract in team history to a guy with one all-star quality year under his belt and an injury history if Bavasi and former Dodgers' GM Dan Evans weren't there to share their wisdom? Almost certainly not.
Bavasi and the new Mariners front office are connected. Their connections extend to Los Angeles, Anaheim, Toronto, Baltimore, and Cleveland, and at the highest of levels. This club has a spider at the center of his web, and he won't ignore any of its radials.
This was once a low-risk club. It was ruled from above by the belief that a collection of not-quite stars made for the best 25-man team. That concept had great success, the best example being a 2001 season that relied on seven free-agent signings that created an MVP, eight All-Stars and 116 Wins ending in a heart breaking loss to the Yankees in the League Championship series.
Bill Bavasi threw that belief right out the window. His philosophy includes a new regime. One that features financial flexibility, best demonstrated by a team that will have four players at $9 million or more and many contributors at the league minimum that will play feature rolls. This, though, isn't the end of his unique version of major league financial creativity.
Bavasi tried a few other unique tricks, not just the large signing bonuses that can be used distribute risk for luxury tax reasons, but to offset their real world expenditure so that the actual dollars paid do not have an enormous one-year increase that would have been necessary with such deals.
He also has used contrct options in such a way that tell players that if they perform, not only will the team be rewarded, but so will the player. The bonuses handed out in two late off-season contracts were also creative . In the deals given to both Ron Villone and Cuban infielder Yunieksy Betancourt, the player receives fair compensation for performing at maximum levels for the major league roster.
These options and high value bonuses all reduce the club's risk from a traditional contract, and furthermore provide the players with great rewards for high level performance. It's these kinds of contracts that show a creative mind within the areas of contracts and legal work to which Bill Bavasi is willing to listen.
This goes beyond just the announcement of Olkin as an official sabermetric and player acquisition consultant, but includes Olkin's earlier advice to the club and hints that Craig Wright has done the same since Bavasi's first days with the Mariners. The club is a believer in the ability of sabermetrics to aid in the predicting of future success.
We don't know that Bavasi reads Baseball Prospectus but we do know is that when trading the Mariners ace during a lost season, he dealt for BP's No. 2 overall prospect, someone who most of the scouting-based evaluaters left well out of their top 10. It is also apparent that he trusts the statistical evaluations on Reed much more than Chicago trusted their scouts, or Reed would never been available to the Mariners to begin with.
Bavasi trusts the numbers, maybe not as much as his scouts, but again, he is willing to listen. He's not a Billy Beane disciple, but maybe he, like the St. Louis Cardinals, is willing to adopt some of the techniques of the sabermetric oriented clubs and include them in his decision making process. The M's second-year GM is not tied to a single method of evaluation.
Bavasi is inclusionary, a twenty-first century general manger of a 19th Century game. He employs his scouts to scour the country side and write him reports. He keeps voices he trusts with connections to other clubs in his inner circle. He understands the Collective Bargaining Agreement in such a way that his contracts are innovative, risk adverse and player friendly.
He has a numbers cruncher, or two or three, or even those that do it for free, to aid his process and help that final tweak to pick one player over another.
Bill Bavasi is Fusion Powered, in a time when a few clubs are using fission and most are still burning coal.
Dave Clark is a former producer at SportsRadio 950 KJR-AM in Seattle and a longtime poster at Fanhome's Mariners forum. Dave can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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