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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

May 25, 2011 at 12:03 PM

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick on the Choo/Cabrera trades, with eye-opening Bavasi quotes

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(Eduardo Perez and David Ortiz share a moment before a game at Safeco Field in August of 2006. Photo by Associated Press).

Jerry Crasnick, a long-time friend, has an excellent piece on ESPN.com today examining the trades that netted Cleveland two players who have been vital in their resurgence, Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera.

As Mariner fans know all too well, both came in deals with Seattle that were executed about a month apart in 2006. On June 30, with the Mariners sitting at 41-40 (two games out of first place), they sent Cabrera to the Indians for Eduardo Perez. And on July 26, with a 49-52 record (four games out), they shipped Cabrera, along with never-heard-from-again lefty Shawn Nottingham, to Cleveland for Ben Broussard.

No need to go over the gory details, though Crasnick does a good job of it. Suffice it to say, Perez and Broussard were big flops, while Choo and Cabrera are All-Star caliber players on a team that has the best record in baseball (even with today’s 14-2 loss to Boston). The Mariners never seriously contended in 2006, fading down the stretch to finish 78-84, 15 games out of first.

What I found most interesting in Jerry’s story are the quotes from Bill Bavasi, the Mariners’ GM at the time. He told Crasnick in an e-mail:

“We were trying to get better fast. Believe me, in Seattle there was no taste for a five-year plan, and no matter how things turned out, I respect that attitude. The 2006 club was sort of starting to get it together and we believed it was important for the players to see we were serious about…maybe not winning…but at least getting better now.”

In retrospect, I think we can see pretty clearly that the Mariners paid a heavy price for their reluctance to rebuild. They ended up throwing a lot of good money after bad, and actually performing worse, for a lot higher cost in payroll, than if they had blown it all up and gone a more youthful route. Only now are they headed down that path, and there are lot of reasons to believe the future is going to be brighter because of it.

Speaking of the Choo trade for Broussard, Bavasi told Crasnick: “Safeco Field being what it is, we really felt a left-handed hitter with some power now would help us a ton (meaning Broussard). That’s one of those deals that I look back at and think, ‘Made sense at the time.’ Nobody went nuts losing Choo. the deal stunk, but you win some, you lose some.”

Ah, but the Cabrera deal still rankles Bavasi, who now works for the Reds as a special assistant to general manager Walt Jocketty. Bill was and is a standup guy, and he puts the blame squarely on himself for not consulting Bob Engle, their international scouting director and the one who signed Cabrera out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old. Perez, meanwhile, had only 102 at-bats with the Mariners and hit .195. He retired after the season to pursue a broadcasting career. Bavasi says that not running the deal by Engle was a “bad mistake.”

“Bob was really upset as the year went on and Eduardo sat,” Bavasi told Crasnick. “As opposed to the Choo deal, I thought, ‘The GM of this Seattle club is a f—ing idiot.’ ”

It’s hard not to look back and wonder where the Mariners would be with Choo (who last year hit .300 with 22 homesr, 90 RBIs and a .401 on-base percentage) and Cabrera (a slick-fielding shortstop who is hitting .305 with 10 homers and 34 RBIs).

But it might drive you crazy.

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