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

July 1, 2011 at 7:25 AM

Bedard injury muddles Mariner trade options

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(Erik Bedard after getting the last out in the sixth inning on Monday against the Braves. Seattle Times photo by John Lok).

The unexpected news Wednesday that Erik Bedard was going on the disabled news (unexpected because there was no hint of a knee injury; Bedard had been on the DL eight previous times in his career, four of those with the Mariners, so that in itself is not a bombshell) really throws a curve (see what I did there?) into the M’s trade options involving Bedard.

You can debate all day about the wisdom of dealing prospects to get a bat (have I got a blog for you!), but Bedard was the Mariners No. 1 trade chip, if they decided they wanted to trade him. Already, a spirited debate was brewing about the wisdom of doing so. You could make strong arguments either way: They’d be crazy to trade a guy who was pitching so well when the team was so close to first place; or, they’d be crazy NOT to trade a guy who could be a free agent after the year and could break down at any time (ahem).

What was accepted, until Wednesday, is that Bedard was going to be a hugely coveted commodity, perhaps the best pitcher potentially on the market. Now, there was some disagreement among the executives I’ve talked to about how much Bedard — essentially, a rent-a-player — would fetch on the market. Some felt it would be a prime prospect, others just a B or B-plus prospect. But there was always the possibility that a team like the Yankees, desperate to beef up its rotation for the stretch drive, would be willing to overpay. Or even the suggestion that the Mariners could get creative and swing a three-way trade — Bedard to Team A, Team A’s prospects to Team B, Team B’s bat to Mariners — to beef up their offense.

Or, they could have taken Door No. 3 and kept Bedard, perhaps locking him up for 2012 and beyond.

That’s still on the board, of course, and so is the possibilty of trading Bedard. But this injury is most assuredly a significant blow to his trade value, just cementing the fear that Bedard is an injury risk. Since his 0-4 start, Bedard has pitched brilliantly this year, and he may again. His knee apparently began bothering him late in his start against the Braves on Monday. It was another strong effort in a 3-1 loss. Bedard worked seven innings and gave up just four hits (two of those home runs). In his last 11 starts, Bedard has gone 4-2 with a 1.77 earned-run average, and the M’s are 8-3 in those starts. As I detailed earlier, he’s pitched as well as just about anyone in the American League.

Here’s what manager Eric Wedge told reporters after Wednesday’s game: “I don’t think it’s too serious, but it’s something we need to nip in the bud. I think it’d be pushing a bad play to send him back out there because there is something going on there. I think it’s mild, but need to make sure this is hopefully just a two-week thing and get him back out there.”

Fifteen days, retroactive to June 28, would make Bedard eligible to come back right after the All-Star break, on July 14 in Texas. That would give him maybe three or four starts before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline to show teams he’s OK. The good news is that the injury doesn’t involve his shoulder. Bedard’s last three seasons have ended with shoulder surgery. But he also has a history with his left knee, suffering a strained MCL in 2005 that sidelined hom from May 22 through July 18. This MLB.com article from 2005, dug up by Jeff Sullivan at Lookout Landing, is a little ominous, especially this paragraph: “The club projected Bedard to miss two to three starts, but that has transformed into six weeks. Some in the organization are privately wondering when Bedard will return and if he will be at the level he was when he was injured. The left-hander was on a dominant streak, going 3-0 with a 1.24 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 29 innings in May.”

That was then, this is now. I don’t want any of this to be perceived as a shot at Bedard, who has received enough of them. He deserves a lot of credit for persevering through the three shoulder surgeries to come back strong this year. Injuries happen. It just so happens that this one is going to inevitably make teams that are interested in Bedard have a little more doubt about how much they want to give up to get him.

Heading into the season, it looked like the Mariners’ best trade-deadline chip would be closer David Aardsma. But Aardsma hurt his hip, and then his arm, and hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors all year. Now another potential trade chip — and a valuable contributing member to a team that is desperately trying to remain in contention — has gone down with injury.

It’s not good news, on multiple levels.

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