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.

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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.