Erik Bedard’s Future in Seattle… or?

A week ago over on USS Mariner, Dave Cameron brought up the Seattle Mariners current glut of starting pitchers and, explored a little further in the comments, brought up the topic of what to do with Erik Bedard‘s future might or might not be. It is a fascinating case study for what was perhaps the best pitcher in the American League in 2007.

For the purposes of brevity, I am going to assume that you are aware of Bedard’s general playing history to avoid doing any kind of detailed recap of the past. Where it stands now is that Bedard is coming off just 81 innings last season after now-departed GM Bill Bavasi traded an ark of talent to Baltimore for his services. With free agency looming after 2009 and a laundry list of past injuries dogging him, Bedard gives the Mariners little in the way of trade value. As a comparison, look at how well Rich Harden had to pitch in order to net the Cubs anything of value at the deadline, and Harden came with a year and a half of team control.

So it seems that the only hope along the trade front for the Mariners is that Bedard recreates 2007 this season and Seattle is able to flip him in July to a team hovering on the edge of a playoff run. Even then though, it seems like the best comparison would be the Angels’ trade for Teixeira this past summer but with a well-discounted return for Bedard being a pitcher and a fragile one at that. That’s hardly a return to write home about.

Another side effect of Bedard’s injured 2008 campaign is that in order to regain Type A free agent status at the end of 2009, he would have to mirror 2007. Bedard barely finished as a Type A after this past season and with 2007 coming off the books, he would have to replace it with a season of roughly equal value according to Elias.

So if Bedard does manage to replicate 2007, the Mariners might have some options; either to try and trade him or hold onto him and hope he garners Type A status at the end of the year and gain them some draft pick compensation that would take some of the sting out of taking in the shorts when they traded for him. But we have to be realistic and note the chance of that happening is minuscule.

More likely, Bedard performs at a level that will only net him Type B compensation and no team will offer much for his services at the deadline. So, what to do? Well, there is a third option and that’s approaching Bedard with the hope of signing him to an extension. Throwing out the unknowables, such as whether Bedard would even want to stay in Seattle where he was identified in part with the collapse from 2007, would it be a smart idea? There’s rarely a clear answer to a question like that, and mostly it lies in what kind of contract it would take.

SafeCo Field would be a terrific place for Bedard to pitch and the new Mariner outfield would help to further deflate his ERA and possibly raise his strikeouts. There are some performance-based reasons for Bedard to consider sticking around. The Mariners aren’t likely to contend in 2009 and they clear a lot of salary off the books after this year, so having a reduced-price Bedard on hand for the fruition of a re-tool in 2010 might be tempting. Normally, you’d expect a breakdown here of Bedard’s projected future value and some solid analysis on what kind of contract the Mariners should be willing to offer and Bedard be willing to accept, but I think the projections, already sketchy enough for pitchers, aren’t going to be useful, so I am just going to leave it up as an open question.

Would you try to extend Bedard and if so, for how long/much? Would you try to lock him up before the season starts when he might take less or wait to see how healthy he is? Take whatever you can get in June/July? Let him walk at the end of 2009?

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

12 Responses to “Erik Bedard’s Future in Seattle… or?”

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  1. Conballs says:

    This could be the toughest dilemma for any GM this offseason. I mean, I would actually love to sign Bedard to an extension at a discounted rate. But if it doesn’t work out? It just furthers the stain of Bavasi’s trade, and bleeds into Zduriencik’s legacy. That could be good or bad, but if it’s bad, Z will be to blame. However, if Bedard is let go and pitches well afterwards, Z will still be off the hook.

    If Bedard is pitching well through the first-half, the M’s may not be in a terrible decision. Pending offseason moves, the M’s have a legitimate 1-2 punch and an offense that underperformed AND was unlucky last year. I’m not saying they’re really a threat to the Angels, but if they are within 5 or 6 games as the deadline nears, you must keep him unless you can get a decent return. Even with Type B, you ride him out, make a push, play exciting baseball, win back the city of Seattle and its fans.

    MOA: Approach Bedard before spring training about an extension that is incentive-based (unlikely?). No go? Ride him during the season. If he’s pitching phenomenal? Great, play him all season and get Type A. Doubtful a trade will match those draft picks. If he’s mediocre, you still ride him, unless you’re playing equivalent to last year. If he’s crap, no matter, he’s gone after this year and the Z era can truly begin.

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  2. Conballs says:

    I meant “position” not “decision” in 2nd paragraph. And “Type A” not “Type B” in 2nd paragraph.

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  3. Matt says:

    I may be a little too risk averse, but I would not sign a starting pitcher under control to an extension coming off of an 81 inning season. If he pitches well there is value to be had in a trade at the deadline, or by letting him walk and picking up the draft picks.

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  4. Dan Mellen says:

    He won’t stay. The local media has been very hard on him. He doesn’t like giving interviews and they seem to have taken that as a personal attack. They spent the year insulting his “toughness” and “determination” and other things that can’t be quantified by people watching from home. They used the phrase “Hundred Pitch Pitcher” as an insult. The local fans are constantly attacking his character and desire (my dad does this relentlessly) and everybody blames him for the loss of Adam Jones and Chris Tillman (god, I miss Adam Jones and Chris Tillman). Bavasi overpayed for an injury prone player who’d only had one really great season under his belt. That’s not Bedard’s fault. All Bedard he can do is play when he’s healthy and rehab when he’s hurt. Asking for anything else is absurd. Sorry. That’s been bugging me for a while. Anyways, he won’t stay and I don’t blame him. The best thing the Mariners can do is sell him to the highest bidder between now and July. I don’t like it, but it’s all we can do.

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  5. csiems says:

    Like Matthew said, leaving out whether or not Bedard would want to stay in a city where “Chief” threatened to throw him against a wall, I think it would be in both Bedard’s and the Mariners’ interests to sign him for a 1-year/$10 million contract. For Bedard to get the big payday, he has to pitch healthy for more than a year. If he can go two, maybe that reduces concerns about his fragility enough to cash in. I think teams should look for Ben Sheets to set the bar on what to offer Bedard.

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  6. CMC_Stags says:

    Let’s say Bedard’s next 3 season, 2009 to 2011, will match what he’s averaged for the last 4 seasons, 2005 to 2008. That would be 25 starts, 150 innings, and a 3.65 FIP per year. Compared to a replacement level starter’s 5.50 FIP, that would be a difference of 31 runs. If you take off a run for not hitting the 160 inning replacement level threshold, this puts Bedard at a +3 WAR pitcher. A 3 WAR pitcher should get about $13.5M per year in a multi-year deal.

    His career so far compares – at least to me – pretty closely to A.J. Burnett who just got a $82.5M/5 year contract from the Yankees. I don’t think it would be outside the realm of reason for the M’s to offer Bedard a 3 year contract at something like $30M with performance escalators based on innings pitched to bring it to $40M and a vesting option for a 4th year at $15M. I don’t know if Bedard would accept the contract, but it would be a pretty fair deal for both sides. It gives Bedard protection in case his shoulder doesn’t heal right and it gives the M’s a very high ceiling rotation for the next 3-4 seasons. It also gives the M’s the certainty of having a full rotation for the next few years of Felix, Bedard, Morrow, Silva, and Ryan Rowland-Smith (or Heilman). Considering that Washburn and Batista come off the books after this season, it will actually be a reasonably inexpensive rotation for it’s quality.

    If Bedard were to turn down an offer like this, then the team is pretty much stuck in that a richer offer is too risky and Bedard has no trade value now. If he pitches well he might generate some trade value, but he also ups his free agent cost considerably. On the other hand, if Bedard turns down the offer and has a slow start to the season, he’ll probably have to sign a short-term prove it contract with some team after this season.

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    • CMC_Stags says:

      As to the press not liking him, once he pitches well and the team does better than expected, they’ll all turn around to get behind him. Seattle is so hungry for a winner of some kind and – after a spring without a NBA team for the first time – an M’s team that exceeds expectations in the AL West will have the town jumping for joy. They’ll see Bedard and Silva pitch better and probably will ignore the improved defense and give the pitchers all the credit.

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  7. Bodhizefa says:

    I probably try to sign him for 3 years at $10 mil per ($30 million total). If he bites, fine. The M’s have him at a nice discounted rate due to his awful injury-filled ’08 season. If not, ride him to your heart’s content and get whatever you can for him — either trade compensation or, if he looks to be likely to make a Type A designation, hold off for the draft picks.

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  8. Bodhizefa says:

    Have I mentioned I don’t miss Bill Bavasi in Seattle? :)

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  9. diderot says:

    I believe that Bedard did not throw a single pitch last year comfortably–from the first appearance in spring training on.
    So the first issue to me is to see how he throws this February. If the baseball people are satisfied that he seems to be ‘back’…and he quickly establishes an understanding with Wakamatsu…then I say offer him a similar contract to what’s been suggested above. He is sullen, he is private, but I have to think he also has pride.
    If he’s healthy and he wants to play baseball, I would take the risk.

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  10. Mike Ketchen says:

    Great topic here,

    I have heard Bedard refuses to take advantage of scouting reports/technology etc. So on that front it may be bette to not extend the relationship. However, strictly off performance, the M’s know what his body is doing better then anyone else. If they think he will hold up over the next 3-4yrs and make 25+ starts I think you have to extend him. This is what GM’s look for. You need to lock up talent at a discounted rate when you can. Think about how Theo took advantage of Beckett in 2006 season. He was underperforming an had some minimal concerns about his own health (he could not get insurance on his shoulder) he identified it and made a great deal for the sox. I would think the M’s may try and do the same.

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  11. Walrus says:

    I agree with the last few comments. Try to get Bedard to sign a 2/ 3 / 4 year deal with LOTS of incentives. I’d even take the top level of incentives to $17 million per year provided he pitches at 2007 levels.
    Seattle fans will love him in May, if he starts 4 times in April and goes 6 innings each time.

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