One of our editors here at the Seattle Times posed this:
Stat lines for two American League left-handers, 2007 season:
Pitcher A: 28 years old, 13-5, 3.16 ERA, 28 games, 182 IP, 141 H, 57 BB, 221 K
Pitcher B: 29 years old, 5-8, 6.29 ERA, 20 games, 97.1 IP, 112 H, 36 BB, 66K
Which pitcher, before the 2008 season, would you rather give up five prospects for?
Pitcher B is Cliff Lee, as you might have guessed. His 2007 season was pretty much a disaster. Lee strained his right abdominal muscle during spring training and never really recovered. He didn’t make any starts in spring, was placed on the disabled list April 1, and didn’t make his first start of the year until May 3. When he struggled at midseason (0-4, 11.70 ERA over a four-game span), Lee wound up being optioned to Triple-A. It hardly seemed the precursor to a Cy Young season in 2008, but that’s exactly what happened.
Pitcher A, as you probably also guessed, is Erik Bedard, for whom former GM Bill Bavasi sold out the farm in an attempt to provide the missing piece that would put the Mariners over the top. It didn’t work so well. No one here needs to be reminded of the dirty details. But remember, Bedard was already a fragile commodity when the Mariners got him, and that fear of him breaking down was upheld when each of his two seasons in Seattle ended with shoulder surgery. Throw out 2007, and Lee has been a workhorse, as well as a stud. He is a far more established product now than Bedard was prior to the 2008 season.
Not sure what any of this proves, other than it’s interesting how the stock of these two pitchers has changed so dramatically over the past few years. And, perhaps in a cautionary note, it’s a reminder that players in general, pitchers in particular, don’t always turn out to be the product you think you are trading for.
But that’s what makes it fun.