The Seattle Mariners entered the season with high expectations. After all, Seattle added a talented young lefty, Erik Bedard, to the top of its starting rotation, in addition to one of the more promising free-agent pitchers in a thin class, control artist Carlos Silva. Several writers thought that perhaps Bedard, who came over in a blockbuster deal from the Baltimore Orioles this winter, was the missing link for the Mariners, who nearly missed winning the American League Wild Card down the stretch in 2007.
Under the leadership of recently fired general manager Bill Bavasi, however, Seattle did not see its ’07 campaign for what it was, essentially a fluke. Thus, Bavasi mortgaged the future in Seattle, sending Adam (not Pacman) Jones, George Sherrill and three other minor league prospects to Baltimore with the intention of overthrowing the Los Angeles Angels as the supreme team in the American League West.
What Bavasi failed to recognize, though, is that the Mariners’ projected lineup entering spring training was not exactly worth writing home about. In fact, it was easy to picture the Mariners struggling to score runs. Too many overpaid replacement-level veterans-- Jose Vidro, anyone?--were slotted in the middle of the lineup, and have received far too many at-bats.
Then there is Bedard, who has turned into a six-inning pitcher and is now on the trade block himself.
There is now hope, however, for Seattle fans. Bavasi, who was in way over his head in today’s generation of statistical analysis and did not understand the concept of replacement-level, is gone. The Mariners' opening day manager, John McLaren, was shown the door as well, becoming one of three managerial casualties--as well as John Gibbons and Willie Randolph--in less than a week earlier this spring.
Today, Seattle made another long-awaited step towards securing its future, finally viewing aging first baseman Richie Sexson as a sunk cost by releasing the underperforming veteran. Over the past two seasons, hitting a baseball has been extremely difficult for Sexson, perhaps the ultimate example or the face of the Mariners’ willingness to overpay for aging, unproductive stars on the decline.
In fact, one could say that Sexson has been allergic to hitting since he belted 34 home runs back in 2006. He was one of the least productive offensive first baseman in the majors during the Mariners’ brief stint of relevance in ’07, batting .205/.295/.399 in an injury-plagued campaign. Things have not been any easier for him this spring, as he posted a .696 OPS in 74 games before getting released this afternoon., all for the bargain price of $15,500,000.
Now, though, instead of wasting at-bats on Sexson, the Mariners can create more opportunities for some of their younger hitting prospects, including catcher/designated hitter Jeff Clement. Clement, who was sent down to Triple-A Tacoma a few days into a call-up earlier this season based on his performance in relatively small sample size, proved that he could handle Triple-A pitching. At the time of his recent call-up, he had one of the highest OPS (1.137, line of .337/.457/.680) totals in the Pacific Coast League.
The Mariners finally came to the conclusion that Sexson is a sunk cost, an incurred expense fixed into the budget which cannot be recovered.
New manager Jim Riggleman, however, continues to place Vidro--and his embarrassing .571 OPS--in the cleanup spot. These things take time, apparently, in the land of Starbucks.
Bedard, by the way, was placed on the disabled list in an expected corresponding roster move. His current status certainly does not help improve his trade value.