Monday, March 01, 2004

Bavasi on Ibanez 

Baseball Prospectus is running a two-part Q&A with Mariners GM Bill Bavasi in their premium section. The premium subscription there is well worth it. Here is a snippet of the interview around the subject of Raul Ibanez. Emphasis is added by me.

BP: This past off-season, the Mariners signed what you could call a lot of mid-tier, or second-tier free agents. Was there any thought given to signing say, one high-impact free agent, someone like Vladimir Guerrero, instead of several smaller names?

Bavasi: We pursued Miguel Tejada. A lot of the groundwork for the Raul Ibanez deal was done before I got to the Mariners. Pat and Lee had done a lot of work with Ron Shapiro, and it just kind of had to be tipped over the edge. He was a guy we felt real fortunate to get at the contract we got him. After that, we pursued Tejada. We did our best to pursue him as fast as possible, so that if we didn't get him, we could move quickly in another direction. With most any player, going over four years isn't a philosophy we want to go with. It's hard to find a contract over four years that everybody stays happy with. Pat and I talked about this, and he was saying how with a contract that long, either the player's unhappy with it after a while, or the team is, but someone almost always is.

BP: You mentioned the Ibanez contract. Obviously the Mariners signed him for more money and more years than some of the other corner outfielders on the market that would seem to fall into his class--guys like Jose Cruz, Reggie Sanders, and Carl Everett. Why did you feel Ibanez was worth considerably more than those other players, and what impact do you think he'll have on the team?

Bavasi: You're right that that's pretty much the class of player that we were dealing with. We felt that Raul had the greatest chance in that group to provide the greatest consistent impact in our ballpark. We didn't forget things like left/right numbers in our ballpark--if Raul was right-handed, it might have been be a little different. We didn't think there were any players out there that had the potential to provide production that he did for the deal that we did. We felt he could do a good job of making contact and pulling the ball in Safeco. He's developed into a tremendous hitter too. Our opinion--and we have some numbers to back it up--is that he was the hitter with the greatest impact, and a more consistent hitter than the names you mentioned.

BP: This was a three-year contract for a player going on 32 years old. Was there a concern that you might be signing a player who wouldn't likely improve given what we know about peak ages, who might plateau or actually start to slow down during the course of the deal?

Bavasi: That was not a concern with this player. Roger, Denny, Lee--a lot of people who've been with the club a long time have intimate knowledge of this player, and based on that and what we know, we felt that wasn't a concern.

BP: What type of production are you expecting from Ibanez in 2004? In other words, what's the minimum level of production you'd expect for the money spent?

Bavasi: As with any player, it is fair to expect Raul to perform to the level he has in the recent past.

BP: Given the draft pick compensation required for the Ibanez signing, do the Mariners as an organization believe the money they'd spend on a first-round pick is better spent elsewhere?

Bavasi: Like all clubs, we take up issues like that on a case-by-case basis. But, generally speaking, clubs drafting in the second half of the rotation might be more inclined to forsake that pick for a quality free agent.
Pretty much sounds like I described it. The M's felt Ibanez was the best fit for the club - solid hitter, left-handed, good fit in Safeco, and great character to boot. They made an aggressive offer, and got the deal done quickly.

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