June 19, 2008

GM Lee Pelekoudas fires McLaren

AP Photo Ted S Warren

GM Bill Bavasi was fired earlier this week and replaced with Lee Pelekoudas. Just a matter of days on the job and Seattle Mariners GM Lee Pelekoudas has fired the carried-over Manager, John McLaren.
Replacing him is former Cubs Manager from 1995-1999, Jim Riggleman. Only one of those seasons was successful, the 1998 Wild Card year for the Cubs. Before that Riggleman managed the San Diego Padres in the early 90's to an abysmal record. If nothing else Riggleman has experience at the position unlike McLaren before him.

McLaren was dealt an impossible hand with the extremely questionable personnel moves by the Bavasi regime in previous years. Despite a 110+ million dollar roster, the team is lacking talent with a lot of that money going to players who are not performing.

Of the most expensive players making 6+ million a year, only one of them is providing worthwhile numbers for the contract (Ichiro, and even he could be producing more for a 17 million dollar player). Richie Sexson at 15.5 million is really dragging the team down with a pathetic average and little power. Thankfully it is the last year of what has turned out to be a putrid contract (though at the time it was somewhat justifiable) and Sexson may even be released before the end of the season.

Jose Vidro is another example of a terrible Mariners personnel move, playing DH and taking at bats away from younger Seattle players that are the future of the organization. A .219 average / .264 OBP is just not acceptable for a full time player especially a DH who does not provide anything on the field.

Why not overpay for a catcher too? Kenji Johjima has had a solid few seasons, but like a lot of Mariners he is struggling mightily in 2008 with little power and a .224 average. Worse yet the Mariners are talking about putting these numbers at first base! The good part would be that stud prospect Jeff Clement could play Catcher, but having two catchers in the lineup and on defense is hardly an ideal situation.

The common bond among the expensive Seattle pitchers is that none of them has the 'stuff' to be paid what they are being paid. Washburn, Silva and Batista are control pitchers for the most part yet the Mariners felt compelled to pay Silva 10 million a year over 4 years. Batista has not even been a good control pitcher, as he has been out of the starting rotation after a 6 walk game. He is 3-8 with a 6.09 ERA and a lovely 1.87 WHIP. Washburn is not much better with a 2-7 recorde, 5.83 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. Washburn has however turned it around his last few starts.

Ultimately with the Mariners, they are the victims of their own past fortune. Despite having a negative run differential, the Mariners stole a bunch of games in 2007 and had a respectable 88-74 record. This often leads GM's to think their team is closer to contention than they really are, and was probably one of the driving forces behind the franchise-altering trade that brought Erik Bedard to Seattle.

Bedard has not been awful, but his first half-season in Seattle definitely has not been a success. Bedard is no where near the pitcher who dominated the AL in 2007 for Baltimore and injuries have hampered him (which have long been a worry for Bedard). Chances are he will turn it around and have a better 2nd half of the year, but take a look at what the Mariners gave up in this trade.

Adam Jones is going to be a star CF, and is already having a serviceable performance for Baltimore. George Sherrill was the other major leaguer given up in the trade, and he has been a lock down closer for the Orioles with 23 saves, near the league lead. Worse yet there are three more pitching prospects traded to Baltimore in this deal for Bedard so the trade will look even worse if any of them hit the big leagues soon, doubly so considering the Mariners starting pitching issues.

Losing Bill Bavasi and John McLaren at least provides a fresh opportunity for whichever GM comes in. Seattle has a beautiful ballpark and a top 10 payroll, so the GM job will be attractive no matter how big the current mess is. It is clear 2007 was a mirage for the Mariners and they will need to rebuilt without all the prospects sent away in the Bedard trade. They may cut their losses and trade Bedard, under the assumption that they are not going to be able to resign him in 2 years anyway. Expect the Mariners to hire a competent GM, but Mariner fans will need to wait until 2010 or possibly later to see the rebuilding process come to fruition.