Worst GM Poll: Jon Daniels vs. Bill Bavasi

UPDATE: This poll is now closed.

Our opening round is complete; Wayne Krivsky has won the last matchup by defeating Kenny Williams, 93-49. No upsets in the first round - all of the higher seeds advance.

Let the quarterfinal round begin! Here are the matchups:

Jon Daniels (5) vs. Bill Bavasi (4)
J.P. Ricciardi (6)
vs. Ned Colletti (3)
Jim Hendry (7)
vs. Ed Wade (2)
Wayne Krivsky (8)
vs. Brian Sabean (1)

Today, Jon Daniels of the Rangers takes on the Mariners' Bill Bavasi. Daniels won last round, so we've already talked about him some, but his basic situation is that he seems to be a perfectly intelligent, new-breed GM until it comes time to make a big trade, at which point he sniffs out bad ideas like a golden retriever in airport security. Some of those bad trades seemed reasonable at the time, but one that didn't (Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Young and Termel Sledge for Adam Eaton, Aki Otsuka and Billy Killian) was so needlessly silly and destructive that Daniels may deserve your vote for that one alone. There's more here about Bavasi than Daniels, and I don't want that to skew the vote, so if you're not familiar with Daniels' track record, please check out the original post, linked above.

Bavasi was hired in late 2003 and immediately began making the Mariners older. Some of his early moves were successful - he got good work out of free agents Raul Ibanez and Eddie Guardado - but the three-year deal for Scott Spiezio was awful, and Bavasi's treatment of Carlos Guillen raised serious questions about Bavasi's judgment. First he tried to trade the then-28-year-old shortstop to the Indians for the aging Omar Vizquel, but Vizquel bailed the Mariners out by failing his physical. So instead, Bavasi signed Rich Aurilia, then 32 and nominally a shortstop, and dumped Guillen on the Tigers. It wouldn't be fair to expect Bavasi to have known that Guillen would immediately blossom into a superstar, but he should have seen that even if Guillen hadn't already been a better player than either Vizquel or Aurilia (and Guillen arguably was the best of the three), there's no reason to exchange youth for experience when the likely short-term improvement is marginal at best.

(UPDATE: A couple of Mariners fans in the comments point out that the decision to trade Guillen probably came from the ownership. I'd rather not worry too much about who's responsible for what, except in obvious cases, but if you want to, that's fair game. In any case, Bavasi got very little in return for Guillen.)

The '04 Mariners were a mess, winning thirty fewer games than the previous year, thanks in part to an over-reliance on aging players - no lineup regular was under 30, and Aurilia, Spiezio, catcher Dan Wilson, first baseman John Olerud, second baseman Bret Boone all were awful. The only one of those whose performance wasn't absolutely predictable was Boone's, and yet Bavasi had done nothing to fix the Mariners' obvious infield problems, and he also contributed to them in a major way by trading Guillen. The Mariners nearly lost 100 games as a result. 

Bavasi did make a major trade at midseason that year, sending Freddy Garcia to the White Sox for a package of younger players who didn't ultimately work out. But he spent the next offseason throwing money at the Mariners' problems, signing Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre to long-term deals. This reminds me of the scene from The Simpsons where Homer is knee-deep in quicksand and he tries to pull himself out by reaching into the quicksand to grab his foot. Beltre was just 25 at the time, so that deal was probably a good idea, but adding Sexson to a 99-loss team was a mess waiting to happen.

The '05 Mariners only won 69 games, even with Sexson hitting well, but Bavasi's moves followed the same general pattern - a couple of ineffectual trades of veterans for youngsters at the deadline, then more contracts for veterans in the offseason - this time it was nearly $60 million for Kenji Johjima, Jarrod Washburn and Carl Everett. The '06 M's won 78 games, thanks in part to the arrivals of Johjima plus Washburn and Felix Hernandez (not acquired by Bavasi), who stabilized what had been a floundering rotation. 

After the '06 season, Bavasi sent high-upside reliever Rafael Soriano to the Braves for junkballer Horacio Ramirez, who predictably started stinking up the Pacific Northwest as soon as he got off the plane. Bavasi also took on Jose Vidro's contract in a trade with the Nats, and made the fading former second baseman their DH. In spite of those moves and Sexson's complete collapse, the M's won 88 games. 

Instead of noticing that they'd beaten their Pythagorean record by nine games, though, Bavasi traded several of his most interesting young players for starter Erik Bedard. Bedard is a great pitcher when healthy, but Bavasi had completely misinterpreted his team's 2007 season. Rather than trying to keep up with the Angels, who had added Torii Hunter to a clearly superior ballclub, he should've developed a plan to make the M's contenders in the long term. Now, Bavasi is more than four years into his tenure and he still hasn't fielded a playoff ballclub, and it's not clear that he'll be able to in the near future, either, despite the fact that Seattle's payroll is routinely in the top half of all MLB teams. 

Oh, and Bavasi has an obvious obsession with Willie Bloomquist, and he screws up his prospects' careers by allowing them to be promoted way too aggressively.

 

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