The hunter's gaze is steady as his mortal enemy--the albatross--mocks him in front of his peers.
This offseason has been one that has seen some pretty ugly thoughts thrown around about Jack Zduriencik. When he took the team over in 2009, and the team was immediately successful in terms of overall record, some high expectations were set. He’d made a ton of low-cost, high-impact moves that had improved the team, and it seemed like the Mariners were back on the fast track to relevance.
So when people have compared the Mariners record while Zduriencik has been general manager to the record of former GM Bill Bavasi, they’ve been disappointed. Zduriencik’s Mariners have a winning percentage of .438, while Bavasi’s Mariners had a .458 winning percentage.
That’s not an entirely fair measure. The Mariners were coming off of a 100 loss season when Zduriencik took over, and were the first team ever with a $100 million payroll and 100 losses. There were some cumbersome contracts that were still guaranteed, and most of those players were aging past their primes. It was no easy task for Zduriencik.
Even the average payroll budgets for each GM aren’t obscenely different. Bavasi averaged almost exactly $100 million, while the payroll in Zduriencik’s first three years was about $95 million. This year’s payroll looks like it will pull that average down considerably. That doesn’t tell a full story though. There are some factors that are out of Zduriencik’s control.
For example, during Bavasi’s four years Ichiro cost the team $54.6 million, and Felix Hernandez cost them roughly $1.5 million. That’s a total cost for the two highest paid Mariners (and arguably best, during that time anyways) of barely $56 million. In Zduriencik’s four years those players will cost $112.2 million. That’s basically exactly double the cost, but for two of the exact same players, and while Felix has gotten better, Ichiro has gotten worse (save for his amazing 2009 season).
There are a lot of factors that must go into evaluating a general manager. It’s important to note that Zduriencik didn’t extend Ichiro, and maybe Bavasi didn’t want to either, but regardless, he had a lot more surplus budget beyond those two players than Zduriencik has.
One of the major fan outcries against Zduriencik is that he loses free agency every year. Each year the Mariners are mentioned to be interested in top free agents, and save for Chone Figgins, each year the team comes up empty handed, and the fans disappointed.
As I mentioned right before the end of 2011, Zduriencik has no control over his budget, but in many ways his budget has control over his success.
For months I’ve been saying “Zduriencik has less money to spend than Bavasi did” But I never really crunched the numbers. Here’s what I found:
I’ve excluded the signings of Kenji Johjima and Ken Griffey Jr. because I think we can all agree that those were driven more by ownership or upper management than GM desire to sign those players. (This by the way, works in Bavasi’s favor).
Bill Bavasi’s signings (Player name, Guaranteed money) Only contracts of $1+ million included
Adrian Beltre, $64 million
Richie Sexson, $50 million
Carlos Silva, $48 million
Jarrod Washburn, $37.5 million
Miguel Batista, $24 million
Eddie Guardado, $16.3 million
Scott Spiezio, $9 million
Jeff Weaver, $8.3 million
Jose Guillen, $5.5 million
Carl Everett, $3.4 million
Brad Wilkerson, $3 millon
TOTAL: $269 million
Chone Figgins, $36 million
Jack Wilson, $10 million
Erik Bedard, $2.5 million
Jack Cust, $2.5 million
Russell Branyan, $1.4 million
George Sherrill, $1.1 million
Chris Ray, $1 million
TOTAL: $52 million
A couple things, I included Bedard and Ray because I felt like though they were signed to minor league contracts they had a good chance of making the team. I didn’t include any other such contracts because they wouldn’t have a huge impact on payroll, and because I don’t remember what minor league signings Bavasi made.
Still though, a $217 million difference over four years. That’s an average of $54.25 million per season. That’s enough money on average to have Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder on your roster with room to spare. That’s no small amount.
That isn’t to say that Zduriencik’s payroll additions haven’t come in other ways. He’s added players in trades and their salaries have increased via arbitration. He’s added players and they’ve been extended long-term. However, I don’t care if Franklin Gutierrez takes a dump in center field for the next two years, his four-year, $20.25 million contract makes a hell of a lot more sense than acquiring Jose Vidro to DH with two years, $16 million remaining on his contract.
There are other factors to look at, but when we look at this one in isolation the differences are pretty staggering.