Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
February 8, 2008 12:00 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
The deal for Erik Bedard is finally official. It's the 5-for-1 that's been reported: Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Chris Tillman, Cam Mickolio and Tony Butler. I'll be at the Safeco Field newser in a couple of hours.
I know some of you want me to comment more on this deal, if it's at all possible after the past 12 days. I'll tell you what I've been saying here, on radio, on TV and at last night's Blog Event. I'm still, as of this moment, picking the M's second in the AL West. But when you're the second-best team in a division and the gap isn't all that huge (six games in real life last season), you owe it to your fans to fight for that playoff spot. The M's, with this deal, have done that. No team is built perfectly. But this team just seriously upgraded its starting rotation, not just with Bedard, but with Carlos Silva as well. This was a two-pronged upgrade, as we mentioned back in December when Silava signed.
Made no sense to throw all that dough Silva's way without tackling the front-end of the rotation as well.
This is one of the more dramatic, one-season transformations of a rotation I've seen yet. This team's Achilles heel last year was the rotation. It's now arguably the team's biggest strength.
Just talked to Sherrill, who flew in to Baltimore with Jones last Sunday, then flew back to Arizona with him after the tests were done on Monday. He's packing his things up in Peoria, preparing to fly to Orioles spring training in Florida. He's had nearly two weeks to think about what's gone on and admits he's never seen a situation like this where an essentially done deal takes nearly two more weeks to finalize.
"I've heard the stories of (Orioles owner Peter) Angelos getting burned by Albert Belle (whose career ended from a degenerative hip) thing,'' he said. "And he wants to scrutinize and go over each and every aspect of a player's physical health beforehand.''
Sherrill says he'll miss the M's: "It's the team that gave me my first shot."
But he's looking forward to his new stint and a possible upgrade to the closer role. He's talked briefly with team officials "but they haven't said exactly what my role will be. I just want to play ball."
Yes, the M's gave up a potential star outfielder and an excellent situational lefty to get Bedard. Yes, some of those prospects might turn into something special in four or five years.
That's life. In four or five years, there will be other prospects, more trades, free-agent signings. I can live with it. The loss of Jones/Sherrill? A big pill to swallow, no doubt. But no team is going to land a No. 1 starter for free. The question the M's had to ask themselves was whether they stood a better chance of competing for a playoff spot with Jones/Sherrill, or Bedard? If the answer was Bedard, you can't worry so much about giving up Jones/Sherrill.
In the end, the Orioles could very well "win" this trade based on the sheer volume of talent they received. But if the M's can earn a playoff spot this coming season, or next year (after having a chance to plug perceived offensive and defensive holes via a larger free agent crop or the development of minor leaguers Wlad Balentien and Jeff Clement) it's a move they will no doubt feel was worth it.
In the interim, this off-season has been a whole lot more interesting for Mariners fans, those both for and against the deal. The coming season will be of keen interest to many as they wait to see whether this deal pans out. But even those who absolutely hate this deal would be hard-pressed to deny that, as fans, their hope quotient for this coming season (not 2010...we're talking 2008) has gone up just a bit. If not, I think some of you aren't seeing the forest for the trees. Regardless of how badly you think Bill Bavasi was "fleeced" for the future, at present, he just acquired a guy who is arguably the team's best starting pitcher since Randy Johnson. Throw in Felix Hernandez and that's a starting point that would be the envy of many teams in the game.
I knew with absolute certainty a year ago that the M's were not going to make the playoffs. In the end, despite keeping things interesting for a while, the team was unable to prove me wrong. I can't say the same right now. I can't say that my second-place prediciton will come true. Those of you saying the team will now finish third or fourth, I think your loyalty to Jones is coloring your vision a bit. Looking at the other teams in the AL West, anything less than second for the M's would be an unmitigated disaster. The division truly is not all that great.
As they say, that's why they play the games. Feel free to keep repeating that line on this and other blogs, as some of you already have. The quicker you figure out that there are factors beyond mere numbers at play each and every year (see Escobar/Schilling), the sooner you'll understand that it's OK to take some educated guesses and go out on a limb once in a while. The coming season has yet to be played. Believe me, the Angels are not happy with today's developments.
As for rumors of extension talks, if the M's want Bedard for more than two years, now is the time to do it. They already have to get a one-year deal done with him before his arbitration hearing. If you're Bedard, looking at the market and where things stand, a long-term offer would look mighty tempting right now. Just like the M's in making this deal, you never know what the future holds.