Bavasi Report Card

The fans of Seattle have finally found a general manager they can really stand behind. After enduring disappointment after disappointment, a series of unheralded free-agent signings and some surprising draft picks have finally made Seattle a championship contender.

Unfortunately for the Mariners faithful, that GM's name is... Tim Ruskell, whose Seattle Seahawks just finished getting royally screwed by the other 12th man in Superbowl XL.

So what about the other Seattle General Manager, and I'm not talking about the NBA version of Wally World over at Key Arena. I'm talking, of course, about the much maligned Mariners' GM, Bill Bavasi, whose moves and acquisitions during his tenure thus far have been underwhelming, to say the least.

After an Anaheim Angels club partially built by the M's Lieutenant, won a World Series, Bavasi left his temp job as the Dodgers' Farm Director and took the reigns of an aging Mariners franchise in December, 2004.

Working under the watchful eye of former GM Pat Gillick and CEO Howard Lincoln, among others, Bavasi spent his first year adjusting to life in the Emerald City and maneuvering within the confines of the big budget Mariners' small market approach to player acquisition.

Gillick left the Mariners a winner, but he also left them in shambles. With a roster full of overpaid aging veterans whose best days were behind them, and a depleted, injury-riddled farm system void of young talent ready to contribute, Bavasi faced a daunting task. Maybe an impossible one.

Not only did he have to completely rebuild the roster and reboot the farm system, Windows ME style, but he also had to do it in such a way as to not offend the Mariners uber-loyal fan base. The results are inconclusive, given the dire straights of the club when he took over. But after two years, the picture is finally washing away some of the blurry residue.

Since choosing from a virtual smorgasbord of free agents heading in to 2005, Bavasi found the 2006 free agent buffet much less appetizing, and though the 2004 off-season was certainly noteworthy, it is this winter which may end up defining his tenure as the Mariners personnel man.

Signed LF/DH Raul Ibanez – 3 years, $13.25 million
The former Mariner first-round pick was brought in to solidify the revolving door in left field. With an extremely reasonable price tag, Ibanez was well suited to Safeco with his dead-pull, left-handed power, and remains a productive middle of the order (if underpowered) hitter for the Mariners.

Ibanez remains one of the best bargains at any position in baseball. Though the club was already wrapping up the signing of Ibanez when Bavasi was officially hired, he did stamp his personal approval on the deal, and has avoided trading away the 33-year-old the past two summers.

Grade: B+

Signed 1B/3B Scott Spezio – 3 years, $9 million
As we all know, Spezio was a miserable failure and his days as a Mariner have come and gone. And were it not for an albatross named Jeff Cirillo, Spiezio's three-year deal would go down as one of the worst acquisitions in club history. As far as I'm concerned, Bavasi deserves a mulligan on this one. But there is no avoiding this one. Giving Spiezio three guaranteed years was a bad decision.

Grade: F

Signed RP Eddie Guardado – 3 years, $13 million (plus $4 million incentives)
Kazuhiro Sasaki's departure would have left the Mariner's with a giant void at closer. But Bavasi and the front office staff had enough foresight to sign Kazman's replacement before he officially decided to go home to Japan. And though injuries have plagued his tenure with the Mariners, Everyday Eddie continues to be one of the most reliable closers in baseball. With the price of closers skyrocketing this off-season, and a bevy of potential closers waiting in the wings, Bavasi made the wise decision to pick up the club option on Guardado for 2006.

Grade: B+ (twice; once for signing, once for the option)

Traded SS Carlos Guillen to Detroit for 2B Juan Gonzalez and SS Ramon Santiago
While Guillen's talents never quite materialized as a Mariner, underwhelming us all with his bat and consistently landing on the DL, he most certainly had more value than what Seattle got in return from Detroit. But this one had Pat Gillick, Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln's names all over it. The organization, mainly the three aforementioned executives, made a choice. Freddy Garcia over Carlos Guillen. Bavasi's hands were tied.

Grade: F

SS Rich Aurillia signed as free agent – 1 year, $4.25 million
This guy really stunk but the acquisition typifies the Mariners' approach to Free Agency. Brought in to replace Guillen, Aurillia was traded for peanuts after hovering around the Mendoza line for the first half of the season.

Grade: F

Traded 3B Jeff Cirillo to San Diego for Men in Monkey suits
Basically a salary swap, Bavasi managed to rid himself of Pat Gillick's biggest mistake in exchange for the equally overpaid Kevin Jarvis. The Mariners did get a solid pinch hitter in Dave Hanson, but this one doesn't really equate to anything.

Grade: B

Traded SP Freddy Garcia to Chicago for CF Jeremy Reed, C Miguel Olivo and SS Mike Morse.
This one seemed like a good deal at the time since it became evident that the Mariner's weren't planning on resigning Garcia, nor did Garcia seem likely to desire to remain in Seattle. Bavasi netted phenom Jeremy Reed, a five-tool catcher in Miguel Olivo and a throw-in, Mike Morse, who temporarily ended up an everyday starter.

In losing Garcia the Mariner's lost one of the better starters in baseball who was signed at what turned about to be a bargain price for a pitcher of his caliber. The verdict is still out on Reed, but Olivo is gone and Morse will never be an everyday starter, so unless Reed becomes an All-Star, this trade will also be considered a failure in terms of talent for talent. But since Bavasi felt he has little choice but to deal away the right-hander or lose him for nothing via free agency, it wasn't a total haul by the White Sox.

Grade: C-

Designated 1B John Olerud for assignment
It had to be done. The popular first basemen had seen his bat become a liability at one of baseball's most important offensive positions. Olerud was ultimately replaced by Bucky Jacobsen who was entertaining if nothing else and paved the way for Bavasi's greatest acquisition.

Grade: C

Fired MGR Bob Melvin
Thank Goodness! I've seen more emotion from a cactus. A dead cactus.

Grade: A

Signed 1B Richie Sexson – 4 years, $52 million It was a Merry Christmas in Mariner town. What turned out to be Bavasi's best move to date brought a whole new level of excitement to Seattle and signaled and end to the days of vanilla free agent signings. Health fears proved unfounded, as Sexson was absolutely everything as advertised - and then some.

Grade: A

Signed 3B Adrian Beltre – 5 years, $64.25 million
Christmas present number two, Beltre, coming off a career year was signed two days after Sexson and Bavasi finally looked like the savior fans had hoped for when he was originally bought in. Bavasi showed himself a brilliant strategist against baseball's agent supreme and public enemy number one, Scott Boras, playing the Dodgers for fools while signing Beltre for what still seems a reasonable contract. Unfortunately, Beltre flopped in his first season as a Mariner, and though the acquisition meant Bavasi meant business, the signing wasn't the blue-chip piece the club had hoped.

Grade: C

Signed SP Jorge Campillo from Mexican League - $850,000 signing bonus
What seemed like a quick fix to an immediate need, didn't turn out quite as well as planned. The "Mexican Greg Maddux," as he was advertised, was solid if unspectacular before going down with season ending elbow surgery shortly after being called up from Triple-A Tacoma. Now property of the San Diego Padres, the money he was given a year ago seems to have gone to waste.

Grade: F

Traded C Miguel Olivo to San Diego for C Miguel Ojeda and RP Natanael Mateo
The doctor ordered a change of scenery for the disappointing Olivo. San Diego got a disappointing 5 tool catcher/head case. The Mariners got a lousy 30 year catcher and a journeyman 24 year old double A reliever. Olivo had next to no value at the time of the trade so the fact that Bavasi got anything more than a cadaver is surprising though the timing of the trade could have been better.

Grade: D-

Traded LF Randy Winn to San Francisco for C Yorvit Torealba and SP Jesse Foppert
One of the best moves thus far from Bavasi was getting one-time Giant prospect supreme Jesse Foppert for Randy Winn, whose bat was becoming a liability, plus a solid backup catcher in Yorvit Torrealba.

Winn was in the final guaranteed year of his contract and probably wasn't going to be retained anyway so this move made a lot of sense. Foppert, though a major health risk after having Tommy John Surgery in 2004, has major upside if he can regain the form he possessed prior to the injury.

Grade: A

Traded RP Ron Villone to Florida for SP Yorman Bazardo and RP Mike Flannery
In another solid trade made to re-stock a depleted farm system, Bavasi traded versatile lefty Ron Villone for two hard throwing right-handers. Both are solid pitching prospects with Major League potential and could see action with the club sooner or later.

Grade: B

Sign C Kenji Johima – 3 years, $16.25 million
Johima is low-risk, high-reward signing for Bavasi. With a light contract and gold glove caliber skills behind the plate, Johima's Japanese statistics compare favorably to countrymen Hideki and Kazuo Matsui. The big question is which Matsui Johjima resembles when he steps up against major league pitching. Regardless, he is a significant upgrade at catcher over 2005 - and at a reasonable price.

Grade: B+

Sign SP Jarrod Washburn – 4 years, $37 million
This is the one free agent signing that makes M's fans skin crawl. Parlaying a deceptively low ERA into a near $40 million contract, Washburn took advantage of a sellers market in what could be the defining acquisition of Bavasi's tenure. Should Washburn, a number three starter at best, fail, Bavasi may have signed his own walking papers.

Grade: D+

Signed DH Carl Everett – 1 year, $4 million (plus option)
Certainly not the bat fans wanted, but signing Everett was a relatively low risk given the moderate cost and short length of the deal. If Everett proves to be a disappointment or distraction, he can easily be waived without causing a rift between the club and its fans. Everett adds a bit of left handed pop to the lineup until Chris Snelling is ready to return to the club.

Grade: C

Evaluating Bavasi's performance thus far produces mixed reactions. Clearly many of the acquisitions haven't panned out and judging them at face value, one could easily make a case for his firing. On the flipside, the underlying strategy beneath them is clear and solid. Bavasi inherited a club falling to pieces. Gillick knew it and that's why he left, so Bavasi had no choice but to implode it and rebuild.

I like the direction the club is headed, even if it is taking longer than most fans would like, and Mariner fans are a rational bunch who realize that rebuilding doesn't occur overnight – right?. That said, if the 2006 Mariners don't show major improvement, somebody has to take the fall.

Rest assured, it won't be Ichiro.

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