Past management snafus by the Seattle Mariners front office are partly to blame for their recent offensive struggles in 2014. As cliche as it sounds, hindsight is always 20/20. Dissecting trades and free agent acquisitions is always easier to do years after the fact. So when the GM of a MLB franchise is entrusted with moving the organization forward and he does not, those decisions deserve scrutiny and analytical recourse.
On Feb. 8 of 2008, then-Mariners GM Bill Bavasi pulled off a move that would critically hinder the development of Seattle’s organization moving forward. Baltimore Orioles SP Erik Bedard was coming off an impressive 2007 season, in which he placed fifth in Cy Young voting that season. No one can be sure what Bavasi’s main motivations were, but on that day in February, Bavasi sent five players to the Orioles in return for Bedard.
During his time in Seattle, Bedard played decently, starting 30 total games across the 2008-09 seasons. The shoulder injury he sustained in 2009 forced him to miss the entire 2010 campaign, and the Mariners did not pick up his contract option for 2011. So ultimately, what did the Mariners get out of Bedard during his time in Seattle? A lot of medical bills, a 11-7 record and nothing even close to Cy Young-worthy pitching.
What did the Mariners lose in the deal? So far, a three-time All-Star and Gold Glove CF in Adam Jones, a second-round draft pick in Chris Tillman, who currently sports a 2-1 record and a 1.71 ERA with the Orioles (was an All-Star in 2013), and RP George Sherrill, who saved a combined 52 games from 2008-09 for Baltimore.
With a payroll of over $100 million in 2008 en route to a 61-101 finish, Bavasi was fired on Jun. 16 of that year. He was replaced in October by current Mariners GM, Jack Zduriencik. If the Mariners are going to approach 100 losses again in 2014, Zduriencik will surely be out the door. Like Bavasi, one glaring move may haunt him for quite some time.
Michael Pineda was the best pitching prospect in the organization since the Mariners discovered Felix Hernandez. Signed in 2005 by Bavasi as a 16-year old Dominican prospect, Pineda made the Mariners’ rotation in 2011, the third youngest-player to do so on an AL roster that year. The similarities between his rookie 22-year-old season and Hernandez’s 22-year-old season are uncanny.
The centrepiece for the Mariners in the trade that sent Pineda to the New York Yankees on Jan. 13, 2012 was catcher Jesus Montero. His debut season was nothing special. Since then, he has done nothing but put on weight (he reportedly showed up to Spring Training this year 40 pounds heavier than the target weight the Mariners had set for him) and been an average ball player in the minors. He is still only 24, but discipline seems to be something he inherently lacks.
Bedard was brought in to be the Mariners’ ace. That did not happen. Montero was brought in to be a power hitting All-Star catcher for the team. That is yet to happen. Both of these trades can be used as a point of reference as to why the Mariners are struggling at the plate in 2014 so far. The inability of Bavasi and Zduriencik to recognize talent already within the organization is an unfortunate thing.
Even worse was their emphasis to give up these talents for busts. It’s not like these were both miscalculated free agency signings — they were the equivalent of trading in multiple Cadillac CTS’ for a few Pontiac Sunfires.
Pineda is currently motoring along to the tune of a 2-1 record through 18 IP with and ERA of 1.00 (sixth in MLB) and 15 Ks for the Yankees. Tillman is healthy and would be an above-average option for any MLB pitching staff. By all accounts, this season is showing Seattle fans more than any other the importance of depth for MLB-caliber pitching arms.
And certainly, it would be foolish to assume that a single Mariners fan would oppose complimenting Robinson Cano‘s bat with a .285 AVG, 30 HRs, 91 RBIs and 14 SBs. Those are Jones’ three-year averages from 2011-13. To add insult to injury, while Montero bides his time in triple-A, catcher Mike Zunino is currently the best hitter the Mariners have on paper right now — he has a .281 AVG with three home runs and nine RBIs.