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September 5, 2008 at 10:48 AM

Armstrong and trades

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There is obviously a huge concern out there amongst some of you about whether Chuck Armstrong nixing the Jarrod Washburn deal is going to impact the decision by potential GMs to come here. First off, as I mentioned in the previous post, this is not really news. Armstrong said the day of Bill Bavasi’s firing that he was going to be keeping a closer eye on interim GM Lee Pelekoudas than he usually would on a full-time GM when it came to trades. I know this, because it was the first thing I thought of that day back in June and I put the question to Armstrong. Here is the money quote:
“I’m going to be much more involved,” Armstrong said. “I’m not going to say ‘Oh, that’s Lee’s decision and not mine.’ Any decision we make is going to be mine and…speak for the organization.”
You can listen to the exact quote right here on this audio file I dug up from that June 16 press conference. Isn’t it good to be organized?
There you go. So, no, I really don’t think this particular nixing of a trade is going to impact anyone’s decision to take the Seattle job. Of greater concern, I would think, for any potential candidate, would be figuring out whether a repeat of things like the Kenji Johjima contract extention, a move mandated by the Japanese ownership, is likely to thrust itself upon day-to-day baseball matters.
But from the executives I’ve spoken to around the game, even that concern is not enough to tarnish the reputation of this job in Seattle being a good one. Folks want this job. They like the team’s payroll being up there and the fact that stadium revenues will keep pouring in. This isn’t Pittsburgh and the Pirates. Seattle does have a lot going for it as a city and a baseball franchise. What it needs is leadership with a plan. And while the team’s executive branch (Armstrong, Lincoln) is responsible for some of that plan, in major league baseball, it’s the GM who comes up with the on-field “plan” and executes it over a period of several years. That is what Bavasi tried to do. He did not execute it well, as is clear. But it’s not up to Armstrong or CEO Howard Lincoln to formulate that plan. Or Pelekoudas. The new GM will have to. And everyone else will have to stand back and give the new GM room to operate. They can add input from above, sure. And nix any large-money signings or blockbuster trades, as is done on teams around the game. Ask Brian Cashman if you bump into him on the street today.
There has not been a full-scale dismantling of this Mariners team ordered. If that was the case, Washburn would be gone. In this case, the opposite is true. Prospective candidates will see a team where the president is not afraid to eat millions of dollars to keep a pitcher around if he feels his on-field performance can help the team for now. If the new GM feels differently, Armstrong told me yesterday that it will be the new GM’s call to make. For now, the big change is that no more big free agents will be pursued for the 2009 season. We will see by next April how far payroll drops as a result. But we know it will drop.
So, I hope that answers some of your questions. Armstrong was always going to have final say on trades, and said so back in June. As far as the future goes, for me, it’s apples and oranges. Once a new GM is in place, Armstrong will have to step back. I’ve seen no indication he’s planning anything else, and in the sake of fairness — as opposed to raw outrage — I’m posting this to clear up a few misconceptions that are out there.

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