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July 7, 2008 at 7:02 AM

Sabathia going, Bedard next?

Good morning to all of you. A huge thanks to Jose Romero for hanging in for yesterday’s marathon. Did a fantastic job with all those multiple blog posts. Tough game yesterday, in a series where the Mariners did indeed decide to show up after a lousy opening night loss to the Detroit Tigers. Same old problems scoring runs, but at least the pitching did make itself felt over the final three games. No, I would not have pitched Arthur Rhodes on a sore arm either. Not when the team, if it has any smarts, is just weeks away from dealing him. Brandon Morrow went through the whole “sleeping on the arm wrong” problem a few weeks back. It sounds funny, but a pinched nerve, or whatever, from sleeping is the same as getting it from throwing. Had Jim Riggleman sent him out there and seen Rhodes get hurt, botching his team’s chance to pick something up in a deal before the July 31 trade deadline, that would have been negligent on this team’s part. Sorry, I know it’s tough to swallow for fans who followed all 15 innings yesterday, but these games are meaningless. Dealing Rhodes and picking up something in return is more important to the big picture.
Speaking of which, some of you likely already know that C.C. Sabathia is about to be traded by the Indians to the Milwaukee Brewers for three prospects. The centerpiece of the deal is said to be Matt LaPorta, a Class AA outfielder who was Milwaukee’s first-round pick last year. Next on the list is Class AAA lefty starter Zach Jackson, who I know from his days in the Toronto Blue Jays system. Jackson was dealt to Milwaukee by Toronto, along with Dave Bush and Gabe Gross, for Centralia’s Lyle Overbay at the 2005 winter meetings. Bush and Gross are both in the majors (Gross in Tampa Bay) now, but Jackson was thought to be the best player going to the Brewers in that deal. Was thought to be a “can’t miss” arm at the time. He was in Class AA back then, so now, at age 28, he obviosuly hasn’t “hit” the big leagues full-time yet, though he’s appeared in 10 career games at that level. Such is the prospects game.
The third prospect is Class A right handed pitcher Rob Bryson, a 31st round pick from 2006. Another player will also reportedly be included.
So, that’s a premium prospect, a onetime premium prospect who should be big-league ready soon and some filler.
Sabathia was the top lefty on the market. Teams like Philadelphia and Tampa Bay had been after him. What does this mean for Erik Bedard? Well, conventional wisdom has it that he should become the next most coveted lefty starter out there. I agree with that. But can the Mariners expect to haul in what the Brewers just did? That depends. On Bedard.

Here’s the thing. Sabathia could walk at the end of the season and sign elsewhere as a free-agent. Any club trading for Bedard would automatically have him under club control through the end of the 2009 season. That is attractive. But not potentially as attractive as it seems up front.
First off, the Brewers could net themselves back two high level draft picks if Sabathia decides to walk after this season, as mentioned in the Ken Rosenthal article I linked to. Now, picks are picks, I understand that. Not the same as those prospects the Brew Crew is giving up. Those guys are showing they at least have a good chance at the majors. Not all picks pan out that way. But everything’s a gamble.
With Bedard though, having him around through 2009 is only a good thing if a team actually wants him around that long. There are several questions swirling around the lefty right now and many are not of the positive varitety. Teams will want to know why it is he’s had trouble getting beyond six innings since late May. They will want to know why he’s apparently been felled by a hip problem, back problem and now, a shoulder problem, before the season is barely halfway done.
They’ll want to know why he hits a wall as he nears 100 pitches.
Those three things will ensure Bedard is not nearly as highly regarded as Sabathia.
Now, I may get fried for writing this, but I’m not sure I subscribe to the whole “Bedard is a wimp” notion that I’ve seen come up in the blogosphere of late. I’m always reluctant to describe professional athletes this way. Let’s face it, many of them could take you or me apart in quick fashion. Not sure “wimps” describes them in reality, once we get beyond normal frustration at their performances. Bedard came to Seattle with a bulldog reputation and I’ve seen that bulldog approach on the mound from him all season. When he walks guys, like he did the other day against Detroit, he battles to prevent them from scoring. He doesn’t give up a grand slam on the next pitch. So, I don’t see a wimp there. This is where Bedard could really help himself by being a little more human and less standoffish with the media. His image has taken a hit in Seattle and around the game. Not because the media is trying to collectively bury him. But because fans are questioning his heart, based on what they see on the field, and he is doing nothing to address their concerns. Nothing to shut them up — on the mound or off it.
As his own PR agent, he should stick to pitching. Or hire an image consultant who knows what they are doing.
But in my eyes, I still see the bulldog mentality I’d heard about.
Trouble is, this season, he’s been a bulldog for five or six innings. That’s not “ace” quality. And teams will want to know what they’re trading for.
Yes, I’m going off “results based analysis” for now, because this is a results-based game. And any deal to acquire Bedard will hinge on his ability to produce results right away. It won’t matter so much what teams expect him to be capable of down the road. What his peripheral stats suggest he should be in the future. How many of you are applauding Bill Bavasi’s trade for him right now? Why not? Because of the results, naturally. Yes, I know some of you felt the M’s gave up too many players to get him. But if Bedard was throwing complete games every other outing, like Roy Halladay, you wouldn’t care as much. As I said, it’s a results-based game. If the Rays don’t bolster their pitching at mid-season and later wilt in a playoff race, their management will have to answer for their failure to produce results. Think it’s easy? That the Rays will automatically win the AL East next year? Maybe they will. Or maybe, they’ll turn out like the Indians have this year. Some windows seem destined to stay open forever but slam shut sooner than expected. You never know whether this open window will be your last one as a GM. You don’t win prizes for your system in this game. You earn kudos for your results. And right now, contending teams are looking at the results Bedard could bring.
This is much like the Adam Jones situation of last year. The M’s didn’t play Jones last fall, rightly or wrongly, because they were worried he might initially struggle the way Jeff Clement and Wladimir Balentien have so far this year. They knew they only had a six-week window for him to produce and could not afford to wait over the long haul. So, they made a judgement call.
Same with Bedard. Even though he’ll be under contract for next year, the big push to get him right now will still be for the results he can produce over the final two months of the season. If he’s a five or six inning pitcher who will require the coming winter to get over his hurts, that’s a big deal. It means the M’s could perhaps expect only one decent prospect — instead of Sabathia’s two — and some filler in return for his services. I’ve written before that the NL is usually a softer landing spot for pitchers. Bedard could be far more valuable to the Phillies if the transition to the NL squeezes another inning per game out of his arm and allows him to throw six or seven innings with his 100 pitches. A better chance of that in the NL than going up against AL East squads the majority of the time as a Rays pitcher.
Now, if the M’s could generate a bidding war between teams, obviously their haul has a chance of going up. But these problems Bedard is having with longevity will impact discussions. Make no mistake. Throwing 100 pitches is not a problem if, like Nate Robertson of the Tigers yesterday, you go nine innings off that. It’s a serious problem if you go five innings as Bedard has done.
As I’ve mentioned, Jarrod Washburn has provided five or six innings of one or two-run ball for a month. He might not have the fancy curveball or the hefty strikeout totals, but he’ll give you the same results. Without having to pay a premium in prospects to get him. The Brewers could still go after Washburn to shore up the middle of their rotation. If a team feels that Bedard will only give them five or six innings, they may ask themselves whether he’ll be worth it for their short-term needs.
If the answer is yes, then the M’s could snag back a significant part of what they dealt to get him. If not, they will be faced with having to keep him around or else swallow one huge, bitter-tasting pill.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS (11:55 a.m.) For JI in the comments thread, I’m totally serious about Jarrod Washburn having put up results that are similar to Erik Bedard’s over the past month. If you want, we’ll even go back to the last week in May. So, for the last six weeks:
Washburn (IP, ER)
Bedard (IP, ER)
Over the last seven starts, Washburn has thrown 42 2/3 innings and yielded 14 runs.
Bedard has gone 35 innings and given up nine runs.
Over the last six starts, Washburn has gone 37 1/3 innings and given up 12 runs. Bedard has gone 28 innings and given up nine runs.
So, going off recent results, there is a definite statistical comparison to be made in the results that matter. A team looking for quick results over the next two months is certainly going to wonder what Bedard is capable of producing. If he’s hurting and going to give you Washburn-like results, why give up premium prospects for him when Washburn won’t cost you any?
The money between the pair is fairly negligible. Bedard should earn an arbitration award of higher than $10 million next year, so he and Washburn will pretty-much be a sawoff money-wise.
To be clear, Bedard obviously has the higher upside. But if that upside comes in 2009, it isn’t going to help a playoff contender in 2008 if Bedard continues to be a five or six-inning pitcher. In a five or six-inning lefty is what you need this year, you can pretty much have Washburn for the cash and worry about next year later on.
Bedard is not producing results as advertised. He came here as a guy capable of going seven innings or more. He is going five and sometimes six. That is not “ace like” any way you slice it. Something is amiss and any team trading for him will want to know what’s going on.
So, hope that helps.



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