(Photo by Getty Images)
You can already start to see it happening: THE No. 1 Mariners story-line in July is going to be Erik Bedard and the million-dollar question: Do you trade him, hoping to maximize the return on a guy with an injury history who can be a free agent at the end of the year; or do you decide it’s crazy to get rid of one of the most dominant pitchers in the American League while the M’s are close enough to make a run for the division title?
When you get down to it, the familiar question about whether the Mariners should be buyers or sellers at the trade deadlnie really comes down to whether or not they should trade Bedard. Because as sellers, that’s about the only chip they have that has any value. Chone Figgins is virtually untradeable; Jack Wilson is tradable but will get you minimal return in either talent or salary relief. I’ve heard Brandon League’s name bandied about, but he’s still got one more year before free agency, and it would be nuts to give up one of the most successful closers in the league at the stretch drive without a sure-fire replacement on hand. In the Mariners’ dream world, David Aardsma wouldn’t had had hip surgery in the winter. He would have been closing games this season and would now be made available at the trade deadline, with League ready to step into the job. But Aardsma developed elbow problems and hasn’t thrown a pitch this year. He is obviously out of the trade picture entirely.
I’ll weigh in on Bedard and whether I think they should deal him at another time, but I just wanted to emphasize just how well he is pitching right now. Since struggling in his first four starts (0-4, 7.71 ERA), Bedard has pitched as well as anyone in the American League not named Justin Verlander. Over his last 10 starts heading into tonight’s outing against the Braves at Safeco Field, Bedard is 4-1 wtih a 1.54 ERA. The Mariners are 8-2 in those games. In 64 1/3 innings, he has given up 44 hits and 11 earned runs, walking 14 and striking out 63. Opponents are hitting .194 off him. He has allowed just two homers.
Here’s how Bedard stands compares to other top pitchers in the AL, and the rest of the Mariner staff, over their last 10 starts, ranked by ERA:
Bedard: 4-1 (team 8-2), 1.54 ERA, 64.1 IP, 44 H, 11 ER, 14 BB, 63 K, .194 BAA, 2 HR
Verlander: 8-0 (team 9-1), 1.56 ERA, 80.2 IP, 43 H, 14 ER, 10 BB, 73 K, .155 BAA, 5 HR
Beckett 4-1 (team 7-3), 1.83 ERA, 64.0 IP, 42 H, 13 ER, 21 BB, 51 K, .189 BAA, 3 HR
Shields 6-3 (team 7-3), 2.39 ERA, 75.1 IP, 54 H, 20 ER, 19 BB, 78 K, .204 BAA, 9 HR
Weaver 3-3 (team 4-6), 2.39 ERA, 71.2 IP, 55 H, 19 ER, 17 BB, 51 K, .212 BAA, 3 HR
Pineda 3-3 (team 4-6), 2.66 ERA, 64.1 IP, 47 H, 19 ER, 15 BB, 64 K, .199 BAA, 7 HR
Vargas 4-3 (team 6-4), 3.10 ERA, 69.2 IP, 57 H, 24 ER, 21 BB, 43 K, .220 BAA, 6 HR
Hernandez: 5-4 (team 6-4), 3.18 ERA,73.2 IP, 59 H, 26 ER, 26 BB, 73 K, .219 BAA, 5 HR
Price 5-3 (team 7-3), 3.25 ERA, 69.1 IP, 53 H, 25 ER, 12 BB, 74 K, .206 BAA, 5 HR
Fister 1-5 (team 3-7), 3.42 ERA, 73.2 IP, 72 H, 28 ER, 12 BB, 44 K, .260 BAA, 5 HR
Sabathia: 8-2 (team 8-2), 3.60 ERA, 75.0 IP, 71 H, 30 ER, 16 BB, 51 K, .246 BAA, 3 HR
Lester 6-3 (team 6-4), 4.36 ERA, 64.0 IP, 66 H, 31 ER, 23 BB, 65 K, .265 BAA, 10 HR
Bedard ranks right up there with any of the AL’s studs, which can actually be used to buttress both sides of the Bedard trade argument. The supporters of a Bedard trade can point out that his value will never be higher, while those who want to keep him can argue that his value to the Mariners will never be higher.
One other fact to note. Tonight’s start will be Bedard’s 15th of the season; in both 2008 and 2009, he made 15 starts and then his shoulder gave out each time, ending his season (he missed all of the 2010 season. Bedard has shown no signs of any shoulder issues this season, and in fact seems to be getting stronger and more confident as the season progresses. If he stays healthy, the Mariners will have a agonizing decision to make on or about July 31.