Mariners need to blow it up

Ridin' Nerdy

Posted: Friday, December 08, 2006

The winter meetings are a special time for any baseball fan, especially in today's world where players sign preposterous contracts. Gil Meche, as you may or may not have heard, signed a five-year deal with the Royals for $55 million.

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I guess going 11-8 last year for the Mariners with a 4.48 ERA entitles him to around $11 million a year than I make (a million per win!). Meche was decidedly league average, and if you look deeper than those traditional pitching stats, you will find that it's not a case of the Royals finding a diamond in the rough.

His ERA+, which adjusts for league and park effects, was 97, with 100 being league average. So he was actually a little worse than average. Combine that with a WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) of 1.43 (a WHIP of around 1.00 is excellent), and you have a scrap-heap level talent.

What should the Mariners do in this market? The other day they traded an electric bullpen arm to the Braves for Horacio Ramirez, an unappetizing starting pitcher with no real upside. Combine that with signing Jose Guillen to a $5.5 million contract, and the M's have had a less than inspiring winter.

General Manager Bill Bavasi has been making bad moves and horrendous free-agent signings since he began his tenure. Beltre and Sexson were supposed to be centerpieces. Both are big-time busts, costing Seattle just shy of $26 million per season to stink up the corner infield spots. There is only one way to go here, and it's closet-cleaning time.

My proposal is to fire Bill Bavasi and trade some of the big pieces for prospects. There are bright spots on the team, good young players to build around like Felix Hernandez and J.J. Putz. The Mariners are not going to contend next year, even with a payroll that could be in the top 10 in the league. Last year they were 11th, one spot ahead of the Phillies.

There is a rumor out there that Sexson could bring a nice lot of prospects from the Braves, including 27-year-old first baseman Adam LaRoche, who hit 32 home runs last year and had a better on-base percentage and slugging percentage than Sexson.

Move Sexson, move Beltre, get young pitching and positional prospects and build towards making a run in a few years.

The Mariners were at the top of the baseball world in 2001, winning 116 games. They were truly among the elite franchises. In the middle of the 2003 season, GM Pat Gillick stepped aside for Bill Bavasi and things have continually got worse.

I'm not saying Bavasi is to blame for everything, but I'm not sure if he has the right kind of strategy to succeed in a world where Gil freakin' Meche is getting $55 million. The answer is not in signing has-beens or never-weres like Guillen, or last year's Carl Everett experience.

Bavasi's teams have won 63, 69 and 78 wins the last three years. You might think that denotes gradual improvement, but I think it has more to do with regression to the mean. For the sake of all of Mariner-dom, blow it up.

This bull market and all of the money in Major League Baseball means that the people making baseball decisions are all the more important.

If the Royals can afford to flush $55 million down the toilet, Seattle needs to find inefficiencies in the market to exploit, or continue to waste away in the cellar of a winnable division.

•Leo Helmar is actually a Red Sox fan who just likes to make Mariners fans feel insecure. Hey, path of least resistance, right?

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