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December 3, 2007 at 6:43 PM

Bavasi scours for two “horses”

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No, not the horses pictured above. We’re talking about mound horses. Pitchers. Guys for the starting rotation. The ones in the photo are two that were staring at me as I tried to wind my way back to the media room here at the Gaylord Opryland resort and convention center. Lots of that kind of stuff around here. Anyway, the Mariners are into “Plan B” mode in their search to upgrade two of five rotation spots, having left the Johan Santana sweepstakes to the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. GM Bill Bavasi is said to have asked the Milwaukee Brewers about Ben Sheets and Brew Crew GM Doug Melvin did tell his team’s beat reporters he met with “a West Coast” club today.
The Brewers need a corner outfielder, but also a catcher who is ready or almost ready for the big leagues. There would seem to be a bit of a match there with Jeff Clement. Remember, the Brewers only have Jason Kendall around for one year. A guy dealt to Milwaukee would be Kendall’s backup in 2008 with a look at taking over the starting job by 2009. Milwaukee also needs relief pitching. Too early to say whether anything will develop out of that.
There have been a handful of rumors about a possible deal with Cleveland involving Raul Ibanez. The way this rumor goes, pitcher Cliff Lee would be coming back the other way. There is somewhat of a fit here, since the Indians have been looking for a corner outfield bat that hits lefthanded. And a platoon of Ibanez against lefties wouldn’t be a problem for the Indians either, since they have a slew of righthanded bats who could fill that role.
Any real hang-up to Ibanez-Lee, however, at least from Cleveland’s side, would be in the contracts. Ibanez only has one year left on his deal — at $5.5 million. Lee, on the other hand, is under control for at least two more years at $3.75 million in 2008 and $5.75 million in 2009. There’s also a club option for $8 million in 2010, so that’s a lot the Indians would be giving up for an outfielder in his mid-30s with only one year left on his contract.
Lee had an off-year in 2007 and it’s questionable how much he fit in Cleveland’s plans. But the guy went 18-5 in 2005 and won 14 games in 2006. His ERA+ was above league average the three seasons before this past one. He’s still only 29 despite being somewhat stubborn when it comes to what he does on the mound and how well he listens to coaches. At least, that’s the word out of Cleveland. I don’t know, that seems like a lot for the Indians to give up for merely Ibanez. I don’t see it happening, but we’ll find out.
Then, there’s Erik Bedard. The Baltimore folks I talk to say that O’s president Andy McPhail wants a bunch of major league ready, cheap young position players. Just think Adam Jones, Jeff Clement, Brandon Morrow and more. Morrow’s not a position player, remember? They likely want \more than folks want to part with for a pitcher who’s yet to throw 200 innings in a season. Yes, Bedard is one of the best in baseball when healthy. But, so is Rich Harden. Therein lies the problem of giving up the farm. The M’s are in on Bedard, hoping for the price to come down.
Here’s the thing. We likely won’t know more until after Santana’s deal happens. Plenty of people assume the loser of the Santana sweepstakes will go after Bedard as well. I’m not so sure about that. I spoke to a Red Sox scout an hour ago and he told me his team will likely go after Oakland’s Dan Haren ahead of Bedard. The same scout also had the feeling the Orioles would be unlikely to deal Bedard within the AL East.
If he’s right, the market for Bedard would likely come down. At least, down from the rumor of at least three, possibly four young players. Should be interesting to keep an eye on what happens. The Mets and Dodgers have had interest as well, so we’ll see if they can keep his cost high.
One thing worth noting is that conversations between the O’s and Bedard have cooled in recent days in regards to him getting an extension by the team. Bedard is under contract through 2009, but the team would be pressed to deal him before then — especially if Santana helps set the market for a horde of prospects in return.
So, that’s it for now. No real movement to report. We meet with Bavasi at his suite in less than an hour. I know what he’ll tell us. He’s still looking. Looking for some horses. Two of them.

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