Bill Bavasi’s Biggest Bungle: Lingering Effects of the Erik Bedard Deal

Despite an abnormally large cranium, Bavasi displayed little intelligence.

Despite an abnormally large cranium, Bavasi displayed little intelligence with the M's.

When the signing of free-agents like Richie Sexson and Carlos Silva aren’t the biggest mistakes your team’s front office has made, you’re either a part of Raider Nation (A kicker in the first round?), a long suffering Pittsburgh Pirates’ supporter (17 straight losing seasons, but who’s keeping track?), or in this instance, a Mariners’ fan still coming to grips with the depths of Bill Bavasi’s inept tenure as general manager. At least John McLaren didn’t sucker punch third base coach Bruce Hines while he was manager…we think.

During his time as general manager, Bill Bavasi was caught up in a neck-and-neck contest with Clay Bennett and David Stern to see who could become the most hated man in Seattle, and somehow Bavasi beat out the duo that stole basketball from the city. Ken Griffey Jr.’s triumphant return to Seattle this season brought untold joy to the denizens of the Emerald City, but it paled in comparison to the excitement that rippled through the streets when the sad-sack Bavasi was finally given his pink slip last season. Anytime a fanbase is more excited about the firing of a GM than the return of its greatest player ever, well, then things probably just aren’t going as planned.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. But mainly, the worst of times.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. But mainly, the worst of times.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to Mariners’ fans after more and more of Bavasi’s “brilliant” acquisitions went up in flames. His signings of has-beens like Sexson, Silva and Jose Vidro and questionable draft picks (Jeff Clement over Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki in 2005 and Brandon Morrow over Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw in 2006) put the Mariners’ organization in a hole they are still digging themselves out of. But Bavasi’s worst move of all, which is really saying something, was the fateful trade of February 8, 2008 that brought convicted felon Canadian southpaw Erik Bedard to Seattle.

The Mariners were fresh off a 2007 season that saw them go 88-74 and there was plenty of buzz about what the team could do in the AL West. Bavasi was bullish about his team’s chances in 2008 and figured that one big move was all Seattle needed to compete for the World Series. The trade had been in the works for quite some time before being finished in early February, with the Mariners sending a package of five players to Baltimore in return for Bedard who was coming off a season in which he went 13-5 with a 3.17 ERA and 221 K’s in 182 innings, finishing 5th in the Cy Young race.

Bavasi’s acquisition of Bedard in and of itself wasn’t a bad idea; here was a young, quality left-handed pitcher with plus stuff and the ability to create  dominating 1-2 combination with Felix Hernandez. The real problem was that Bavasi greatly overvalued the talent within the Mariners organization and failed to realize that 2007, a season in which the Mariners won 14 games more than they lost despite a negative run differential, was a statistical anomaly and not a harbinger of things to come. Seattle players like Jose Vidro and Richie Sexson had overperformed, and thus were due for a regression in 2008, and adding Silva to the starting rotation was a mistake from the beginning. The good news is he’s only around for two more seasons. The bad news is that he’s due $24 million over that span. That’s no bueno.

Adam Jones ascension to stardom had made a bad trade even worse.

Adam Jones ascension to stardom has made a bad trade even worse.

In addition to misjudging the playoff chances of his team with the addition of Bedard, Bavasi also sold the farm, quite literally, in order to bring in the lefty. Bavasi’s time as GM of the Mariners was marked by his extereme myopia, and this was never more clear than when he sent Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Chris Tillman, Kam Mickilio and Tony Butler to Baltimore. Jones was the top prospect in the M’s organization, a speedy outfielder with 30-30 potential and tremendous range in the outfield. After experiencing some growing pains his first full season with the Orioles, Jones came into his own in 2009, hitting .277-19 HRs-70 RBIs-10 SBs before being shutdown with a leg injury.  The Mariners certainly could have used his services in left-field this season, a position manned by the likes of Endy Chavez, Michael Saunders and Ryan Langerhans. Can you imagine an outfield of Franklin Gutierrez, Ichiro and Jones…there would never be a double hit by an opposing team in Safeco Field. Quite simply, Jones is a star and the player that the M’s will most miss down the road from this deal.

But it wasn’t just Jones that left town for Baltimore. Sherrill was a shutdown lefty for the M’s out of the bullpen, who became a closer for the Orioles, and is currently enjoying the best season of his career since being traded to the L.A. Dodgers (0.40 ERA, 15 hits in 22 innings with LA). Tillman is a tall right-hander starter with the potential to become a staff ace (8-6, 2.70 ERA, 154 Ks in 135 innings at Triple-A), and at only 21-years-old, should be a top flight starter for the Orioles over the next 5-6 years. Mickilio, in addition to being one of the tallest players in the league at 6’9″, has been a strong arm for Baltimore out of the bullpen, with a 2.63 ERA and 14 Ks in 13 innings this season. The final player in the deal, lefty Tony Butler, has struggled with injuries in the minors but is still only 19-years-old and if he develops could make this one of the most lopsided deals in the recent history of baseball, in the same breath as the Bartolo Colon for Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore deal between the Cleveland Indians and Montreal Expos…a trade so bad that the Expos don’t even exist anymore!  

Erik Bedard sightings in Safeco were few and far between.

Erik Bedard starts at Safeco were less common than Bigfoot sightings.

To recap, the Mariners traded an All-Star outfielder and closer, a future #1 starter, and two more promising arms in return for a pitcher who threw a combined 164 innings in two seasons. Bedard hasn’t been bad when he has pitched (11-7, 3.24 ERA, 9 Ks/9 innings) but with the recent news that he will be shutdown for the remainder of the season with yet another shoulder injury, he isn’t exactly endearing himself to Seattle fans. Bedard has indicated that he would be interested in returning to the Mariners next season, but would the Mariners or their fans even want him back?

Unless the lefty agrees to a 10-year deal for the league minimum and promises to start taking enough tough pills to stay off the disabled list, Seattle should show Bedard the door at the end of the season and put all memories of this horrendous trade to rest. Of course that won’t be easy as Adam Jones and Chris Tillman continue to develop into stars and the Mariners continue to toil in mediocrity, but it never hurts to dream.

Thanks Bill Bavasi. Seattle will never forget you…for all the wrong reasons.

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