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Originally published September 28, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 26, 2007 at 2:46 PM

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Steve Kelley

Mistakes add up to another year for GM

A year ago, only the most passionate seamheads had heard of Asdrubal Cabrera. He was just another name on the agate page, in another midseason...

Seattle Times staff columnist

A year ago, only the most passionate seamheads had heard of Asdrubal Cabrera. He was just another name on the agate page, in another midseason transaction that registered about a .5 on baseball's seismic chart.

Back then, Cabrera was the player the Mariners gave away for a guy named Eduardo Perez, the right-handed designated hitter they thought they needed when they believed they were inching into the playoff race.

Perez and Ben Broussard were going to be the righty-lefty DH platoon that would put heft in the middle of the Mariners' order.

But that heft got them nothing. For the third year in a row, with Bill Bavasi as their general manager, the Mariners finished last in the AL West.

And Cabrera?

He came into Thursday night's game with the Mariners hitting .288 for the Indians. He will be the starting second baseman for Cleveland when the playoffs begin next week. He is an everyday infielder on what might be the best team in baseball.

Perez? He's working for ESPN.

Cabrera is 21. Perez is done.

How do you think that deal worked out for the M's?

That small trade is just one of the big mistakes made by Bavasi in his four years as the Mariners' general manager.

Still, team CEO Howard Lincoln announced Thursday afternoon that Bavasi will be back for a fifth season in Seattle.

Last year, Lincoln put Bavasi on the hot seat. This year, he let Bavasi off the hook.

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"He had to produce a winning season, and he did," Lincoln said of Bavasi.

One winning season? One winning season that included a September swoon? That's how low Lincoln has set the bar?

Bavasi made too many mistakes to earn another year.

Trading Rafael Soriano last December to Atlanta for Horacio Ramirez was the worst trade of the winter. That one deal might have cost the Mariners a September worth remembering.

And it may not be Bavasi's worst trade.

That could be the Freddy Garcia deal in June 2004, when the Mariners thought they had secured the center fielder (Jeremy Reed) and catcher (Miguel Olivo) of the future, as well as a versatile prospect (Mike Morse).

After four years on the job, where is Bavasi's Asdrubal Cabrera? Where is the diamond he has unearthed that is comparable?

When he traded Randy Winn to San Francisco in July 2005, why couldn't Bavasi find a Cabrera-type, somebody who could work his way up the organization and help the team when it mattered?

At the time, the farm system needed pitching — it still does — but all he could get for Winn was a sore-armed Jesse Foppert.

This year, Bavasi got Lincoln his winning season, but he also gave him a pitching staff that has the third-worst earned-run average in the American League, despite playing in a pitcher's park.

He made smart, calculated gambles on Jose Guillen and Jose Vidro. He signed stalwart starter Miguel Batista, who has won 15 games. He made some moves that worked. He put together an offense that could score runs.

But a strong argument could be made that this season was a fluke and that the September collapse was inevitable.

By the beginning of August, the bullpen was gassed because nobody in the rotation Bavasi assembled could get past the sixth inning. None of the starters will finish with 200 innings pitched.

And even though they entered Thursday's game with the third-best batting average in the league, the Mariners have allowed almost 30 more runs than they've scored.

The team Bavasi put together gave Seattle a summer, but it didn't give it a fall. It gave the city its first winning season since 2003, but it didn't give it a postseason. And in July, when he could have made a move to improve the bullpen or to add a starter, Bavasi stood pat.

With three games left, the Mariners already have improved by seven wins from last season. But again this winter they will have to redesign their starting rotation.

Bavasi has to make decisions on wunderkindren Adam Jones, Wladimir Balentien and Jeff Clement. He should bundle all of them and ship them to Minnesota for left-handed starter Johan Santana.

But on Thursday Bavasi said he wasn't trading either Jones or Clement. Does that make baseball sense?

He also has to do whatever it takes to rid the team of first baseman Richie Sexson, another free agent of Bavasi's who didn't help the Mariners win. And he has to find Sexson's successor.

Another challenging winter is fast approaching. And once again, the future of the home team rests with Bill Bavasi.

Howard Lincoln has removed the hot seat and given him a Barcalounger. Bavasi got him a winning season, and in Lincoln-world, that appears to be good enough.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

Information in this story originally published on September 29, 2007 was corrected on September 29, 2007. Eduardo Perez and Ben Broussard were at one time expected to platoon at designated hitter for the Mariners. In a Steve Kelley column Friday, a previously mentioned Astrubal Cabrera was mistakenly used in that second reference instead of Perez.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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