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December 23, 2007 at 3:17 PM

Holiday hardball 101

I didn’t plan to do any Christmas blogging, but a couple of stories in recent days have me wanting to make a quick comment about some statements that have come out.
The first came last week when Mariners GM Bill Bavasi said pitcher Brandon Morrow likely would not be dealt in any package for pitching, including, one assumes, a trade for Orioles ace Erik Bedard. The next day, this story out of Baltimore had O’s president Andy MacPhail suggesting Bedard was unlikely to be traded.
Well then, sounds pretty clear cut right? No Bedard deal? Not so fast.

I’m tempted not to put any stock in either story. Why? Well, for one thing, I was the reporter who asked Bavasi last week whether the signing of Carlos Silva would now make it easier for him to deal away another starting pitcher (like a Morrow) in a trade with the O’s. Bavasi gave me a long answer you can listen to right here in which he suggets that Morrow fills a valuable role at present moment. He will either be the No. 5 starter (or Horacio Ramirez will fill that job) or else act as the long-man in the bullpen.
If Morrow is dealt, the thinking goes, then the team has to find another long man in the pen. Towards the end of his answer, Bavasi cautions that he isn’t promising anything and that Morrow could still be dealt. But also that it’s unlikely to happen.
Well, for me, that last caveat pretty much negates everything Bavasi said previously about Morrrow being a crucial component this coming season. I mean, he never said Morrow was untouchable. End of story for me.
Another thing. Since when is the bullpen long-man such a critical part of the team? Last I checked, Cha Seung Baek is still around. You know what? Bring Bedard in as the staff ace and I’m sure the M’s would be glad to have the bullpen long man as their most pressing concern.
So, for me, as the guy asking the question in the first place, there was little news in what Bavasi said.
Sounded more like a guy trying to uphold his bargaining stance — at least for now.
So did MacPhail last week. Why do I believe this? Well, this story today out of Cincinnati seems to suggest Bedard is indeed still on the market. What a shocker. In other words, the statements by MacPhail last week were little more, it appears, than a counter to Bavasi’s “I’m probably not going to trade Morrow” statements.
Hey, I don’t blame Bavasi for wanting to keep Morrow and still get Bedard. Keeping Morrow, I feel, is far more important to this team than holding on to Adam Jones. Many of you seem concerned about what will happen if Bedard comes to Seattle without an extension beyond 2009.
(UPDATE: 7:17 p.m. — Actually, for the first eight commenters, down below is the part of my post that got cut off. Just noticed it now, so sorry for the confusion. This new format is killing me. Feel free to keep disagreeing with my conclusions, though).
That would mean at least two years of Bedard and then possibly watching him leave. That could have a real impact on Seattle’s rotation — especially with no Morrow still around. But what if the M’s manage not to part with Morrow in a Bedard deal?
Come 2009, the team would still have Morrow with two years of starting experience under his belt. Not bad, when considered Felix Hernandez would have four years of starting experience and Phillippe Aumont would, in theory, already be in the majors or ready to join the team. Carlos Silva would have two more years to go. All of a sudden, if Morrow comes as advertised, the need to keep Bedard at all costs might not seem nearly as dire. Just a thought.
Bavasi is going to have to get rid of Jones to bring Bedard in for only two guaranteed years. That much seems certain. But Bavasi can create a little more certainty for himself on the pitching front by managing to hang on to Morrow. And that’s why, in a Bedard deal, hanging on to Morrow may be just as important, or more so, than hanging on to Jones. Keep Jones, no Bedard. Keep Morrow and Bedard, well, that changes the rotation’s overall outlook moving forward. And that’s one reason why Bavasi, at least to me, appears to be playing a little Holiday hardball 101. Hey, many of you have accused him of getting “fleeced” on past deals. For now, at least, he seems to be doing some tough negotiating. If you want to avoid a fleece, that’s a good place to start.



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