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December 1, 2009 at 3:56 PM

Mariners offer arbitration to Adrian Beltre, but not to Erik Bedard

This was a move many of us saw coming and the Mariners did indeed offer arbitration to third baseman Adrian Beltre today while declining to do the same with Erik Bedard and the rest of the team’s “unranked” free agents in terms of Type A or B compensation. The reason boils down to risk. Players generally tend to earn at least their salaries from the previous year in arbitration, while often getting increases as well. And even significant missed time from injury does little to change that reality, especially if the players put together strong seasons when they were healthy.
Beltre earned $12 million last season, while Bedard was at $8 million.
Both are Type B free agents, which means that the Mariners will earn a compensatory round draft pick if either were to be offered arbitration and then decline.
Taking that risk in Beltre’s case is not foolproof. While I’ve seen arguments all over the blogosphere that say he’d be “worth it” if he accepted arbitration and came back here for one year, I’d doubt that’s what the team wants. Yes, you can compile Beltre’s stats and make a sabermetric case that he was worth X amount of dollars for what he gives you on the field.
But the team isn’t necessarily interested in dollar-per-dollar value here. Not when they’ve got a bunch of guys who can play third base at substantially lower cost. You’ve got Matt Tuiasosopo, Bill Hall and Jack Hannahan. They might not give you everything Beltre did with the glove and bat, but they can get reasonably close on defense (especially Hall and Hannahan) while maybe even doing the same or better at the plate. Don’t forget, Beltre didn’t exactly light it up last season.
The Mariners will have to pay just over $2 million in salary for all three of those players next season. That’s one-sixth of what Beltre would likely cost in a one year arbitration deal. So, if that trio can deliver even half of Beltre’s performance, the M’s still come out ahead if we’re going to talk “dollar per dollar”. Chances are, they could probably generate about three quarters the production, with the team using the extra money at another position.
Or, trade for a guy making less than $12 million. Or sign a free agent to play third at a lower cost.
Bottom line is, Beltre still costs an awful lot more than the team might be able to find elsewhere for something relatively similar. They already have a bunch of good glove guys who play third.
So, it’s not quite a no-brainer.
But what pushes this one intro the “do” camp for Seattle is that Beltre is highly unlikely to accept arbitration. He wants a multi-year deal and he wants to play at a park much better suited to his right handed bat. Even on a one-year deal, if he was looking to bump up his trade value (via his bat, naturally), why do that here in Seattle and not in a more hitter-friendly park?
Everyone knows he can play defense. His bat is the only thing that will make teams hesitate in giving him a much bigger deal.
So, there is very little chance Beltre would accept the arbitration, which he has until the end of next week to decide upon. Hence, the calculated risk the M’s have taken. But no, I don’t think they want to get stuck paying $12 million or more for their third baseman in 2010.
Bedard is a different story.
Photo Credit: AP

Bedard is coming off surgery and highly unlikely to find a team that will pay him $8 million in 2010.
Teams will want to see how his arm responds to rehabilitation and then, whether he can pitch the way he did before. We’re hearing he might not be game ready until May, so that’s another consideration.
As high as Bedard’s upside may be, there’s no way you want him on your payroll at $8 million next season. You don’t even know if he’s going to pitch next year. Sure, he probably will, but how well? Not worth the risk. Not for a compensatory pick. As a Type A free agent? Well, his injury last year ensured that wouldn’t be an issue but even if he was Type A (usually meaning a late first-round pick plus a compensatory pick for the team losing the free agent) offering him arbitration would not be worth it. You could take $5 million and go sign the next hot Dominican prospect who would be the equivalent of a late first-rounder.
This was never a serious option for the M’s.
It would have been interesting to see the Mariners work out a deal with Bedard that would be incentive-laden. In the process of negotiating that, they could have tried to get him to agree to decline an arbitration offer if one was presented to him. That’s not unheard of. I’d be surprised if the M’s weren’t trying to do that in the days leading up to tonight’s deadline. But if there were overtures in this regard, it clearly did not result in a behind-the-scenes deal.
An incentive-laden contract for Bedard going forward could be interesting for the team. That way, the M’s minimize the risk on their side and pay him if he does produce. I expect that a bunch of teams will try to get in on him in that regard now. The Mariners can still do that.
But they won’t get any compensation if he goes somewhere else. Not after what happened today.



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