Report: Mariners sign Erik Bedard to 1-year deal

Feb 4, 2010, 8:59 AM | Updated: Apr 4, 2011, 7:51 pm

by Mike Salk

MLB.com’s Jim Street is reporting that the M’s have agreed to a one year deal in principle with Erik Bedard that would pay the left-hander $1.5 million plus tons of incentives.

Huh.

Not entirely sure what to make of this. So let’s look at it from a few angles.

1. Positive spin for the team. Of all the remaining free agent pitchers, Bedard clearly has the highest upside. Right now, he is still recovering from the surgery that ended his season in July. In theory, he will be ready to pitch by May (according to Kirby Arnold), though others have suggested it will be more like July.

That’s a long time to wait, but when healthy, Bedard is a top of the rotation guy who would slot somewhere between the middle and back of this rotation. He may not be an innings eater, but he has one of the best curveballs in the league and he has a plus fastball for a left hander. Imagine a playoff rotation with Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee and Bedard?

As for the time lost at the beginning of the season, one could argue that the Jason Vargas/Doug Fister/Ian Snell etc. group should be able to hold down the fort short-term. If Bedard is really able to return in May, the team might only need a fifth starter three times, due to the large number of off-days in April and early May. Certainly, three starts by any pitcher in that group isn’t going to kill you, right?

No one knows how healthy Bedard is for sure or how long he’ll be able to stay healthy once he gets back, but the Mariners know better than anyone. They have been the ones responsible for overseeing his rehab, so they know more than any other perspective team.

Finally, the cost for one year is low enough that if Bedard isn’t able to return (or to return effectively), the team can handle the salary without drastically effecting their operation. If he pitches up to his ability, the incentives will be well-worth it.

2. Negative spin for the team. The biggest problem with bringing back Bedard is that we’ve all been here before. We know about the tantalizing stuff he has, but we also know the drawbacks. The repeated injuries, the walks, the rumored “ducking incidents (where some have claimed that he refuses to pitch against certain teams), and the pressure he’s faced in Seattle to justify the huge trade that brought him here.

I don’t know what to make of the injuries and what they might mean for his return/effectiveness. Some guys have a bout of injuries at some point in their career and then they get past it . Others are never able to regain their form and still others seem to get hurt over and over again (e.g. Mike Hampton). But I would venture to guess that the first category is the least common.

As for the walks, I think this team is well set-up to deal with them. I like their depth, both in the bullpen and in Tacoma. And with the number of quality starts they expect from Felix, Lee and Ryan Rowland-Smith, they can handle a few starts from Bedard that don’t go seven innings. On the other hand, this is a team put together with defense as the top priority. That defensive advantage is lost when guys start walking around the bases.

I’m not sure what to believe about the “ducking incidents” and other negative Bedard rumors. I think he’s a good guy who often gets a bad rap. But I think he often doesn’t help himself by being standoffish with many members of the media and laughing at their questions. He doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve, which can be a great advantage for a baseball player but doesn’t always translate to fans who want to see their players living and dying with every loss the way they do themselves.

3. Positive for Erik Bedard. This is no-brainer for him. A year ago, he was beginning his final year of arbitration. A good season would have put him in position to be one of the highest paid players in free agency as the pitching market was pretty much just him and John Lackey. But injuries derailed that season and left Bedard unwanted and very much unpaid. The risk associated with signing him was too high for anyone to consider a multi-year deal for any serious money.

So if you’re Bedard, what do you do?

You sign a one year deal with plenty of incentives. If you can’t stay healthy, at least you make a few bucks in the process. If you pitch well, you can make some additional coin with every start and set yourself up for that big payday again next off season. It’s the best course of action.

And what better place to do it than Seattle? You already know the pitching coach and many of your teammates. The ballpark saves you runs and the defense might be the best in baseball. Plus, you’re not a huge fan of the spotlight, and the Seattle media isn’t quite as intense as some of the east coast options.

4. Negative for Erik Bedard. Not a lot of negatives here, but one might wonder if an even lower pressure market would help him get back on track (e.g. Kansas City). There is a lot of “Bedard baggage” here in Seattle with the trade and injuries over the past two seasons. Might it be better for him to just start somewhere new without any expectations or pressure whatsoever? That might have been the best way to get his mojo back and get that multi-year deal.

* * *

Those are my thoughts on the report. How about you?

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