Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
August 6, 2008 9:36 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
So, here we are, the Mariners now 1-0 in the post-Jose Vidro era. For me, the Vidro trade with the Washington Nationals truly symbolized the Bill Bavasi regime. It's funny, too, in a way. Because an argument can be made that Bavasi actually "won" that deal. But it was one of those wins that may not have been worth the effort. Like so many Bavasi moves, he might have actually out-thought himself on this one. Bavasi thought that, given the right circumstances, Vidro could go back to being a line drive doubles hitter and deliver an on-base-plus-slugging percentage that would be right up there with other DH types typically paid more money for hitting home runs. Sort of like an undervalued "Moneyball" type.
But here's where he out-thought himself.
First off, Vidro wasn't cheap. He cost two players plus $6 million per year in cash -- not to mention a vesting option for 2009. We've told you all along that the vesting option would not become a factor this year (once the M's fell out of contention) and it wasn't. Too much ink spilled on that one. There was plenty else to get antsy about with Vidro without having to nit-pick over a token contract clause. Only way it would have mattered was if he'd produced and the team contended. Then, as he approached the magic number of plate appearances, the team would have a painful choice to make between playing Vidro and sitting him.
Not once the team fell out of it. But where Bavasi might have helped himself was by simplifying things and simply sticking to the commonly held perception: that a DH is all about getting the guy most likely to rake home runs and extra-base hits with no defense required. And that they are generally easy to find.
In any event, Vidro himself is not to blame for what happened. He actually put up a respectable season last year, one that would have been more than OK if he was still an infielder. But the team tried to make him a DH. He was badly miscast and knew it. He tried his best to remain professional as he was being villified throughout Seattle. The one thing about Vidro that fans really failed to see was that he was a class act. Knew how to act professionally in the clubhouse and in public. Didn't take it personally when he was ridiculed, or when folks -- this one included -- called for his job. He knew the score. Knew this was a business. Tried his best to produce the numbers expected of him.
No, he did not produce what he had to. But he's hardly alone in that department. There's a certain veteran catcher on this team with a huge fan club to match his contract extension who has done as little or less than Vidro -- both at the plate and on defense. But he never got villified the way Vidro was. I think a lot of the venom directed towards Vidro was unjust.
But that's baseball.
So, who "won" the trade?
Yuck. What a set of facts to pore over.
The Nationals recevied Chris Snelling and Emiliano Fruto from the M's and wound up paying $4 million in salary for a player -- Vidro -- who was no longer with them.
Snelling's career has gone nowhere. He is what he was in Seattle -- only less. An off-injured player now with his second organization since the deal and playing in Class AAA with the Phillies. The player received by the Nats, outfielder Ryan Langerhans, broke into the majors in 2002 but is still a part-timer/AAA guy with little to show for offensively.
Fruto was also dealt by Washington, to Arizona and then Boston in a three-way deal. The player the Nats received? None other than outfielder Wily Mo Pena, a supposed power hitter who has produced numbers even worse than Vidro's.
Arguably, the one full season of .300 hitting produced by Vidro last year, bad as it was power-wise in the DH spot, trumps anything the Nats got back. Plus the fact the Nats had to pay for Vidro to hit in Seattle. But it was just the one season -- if anything, the second-half of last year. This year, Vidro was awful, freakish RBI total or not.
So, unless Langerhans magically transforms into something worthwhile, I'd say that if anyone "won" this forgettable trade, it was the M's, using Vidro to help with their 88-win season in 2007. But as far as wins go, this one was so slim, it's barely even worth remembering. The fact that both Seattle and Washington are neck-and-neck for Worst Team in Baseball honors tells you all you need to know.