On The Possible Return Of Erik Bedard

Update #2: Tell it, Jon Paul Morosi:

Source confirms that Bedard is close to a one-year deal with the Mariners.

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Update: Larry LaRue chimes in today, quoting Bedard as saying "When you're a free agent, teams call...Mostly, it's just talk - they want to know where I am, how I'm doing. No one's made a concrete offer." There's a difference between "agreement" and "offer", but anyway, this post is more about the possibility than the rumor itself.

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I wasn't going to say anything when this just seemed like conversation fodder at Jim Street's blog, but now we have an interesting follow-up, courtesy of MLBTR:

From Street's newest blog post on Bedard: "I have now heard that the deal is a one-year $1.5 million base salary contract that includes a shipload of incentives."  In an email to MLBTR, Street explained that his source said an agreement in principal has been reached, but it's not a done deal given pending tests on Bedard's shoulder.

So, right now, we have one guy telling one guy that there's an agreement in place, and it's all pending a physical examination of one of the most fragile players in baseball. Clearly, there stands an excellent chance that this never goes down. But no matter what you think of Jim Street, his seeming disdain of the blogging phenomenon implies that he'll only discuss what he perceives to be legitimate, which gives this some legs.

Lately I've made no secret of my desire to bring Erik Bedard back in 2010. The Mariners have a clear need in the rotation behind Felix and Lee, and among the arms available, few - if any - have Bedard's talent, or at least the talent Bedard had before undergoing his latest surgery. While he'd be a high-risk/high-reward type of acquisition, the risk wouldn't be financial; it'd be that he may not be able to return and pitch effectively, which is something the M's would already know. It's not like signing Rich Harden, where you know he could get hurt at any time. Bedard's already out of action, and isn't set to come back until June at the earliest. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of the equation. The team would have already built a roster intended to get by without Erik Bedard.

So there's risk. Risk is why Bedard is staring at a small 2010 contract. But the reward is why I find the notion so exciting. Let's assume that Bedard doesn't get back to some approximation of normal until the All Star Break. That would put him in line to collect, I dunno, 12-15 starts down the stretch. If you just take his career numbers, you'd expect him to be worth 1.5-2 wins over that span (Fangraphs WAR, FIP-based), and that's without taking into consideration the small extra benefit he would get from being a lefty in Safeco. That's a solid contribution rivaling any we could get from anyone still readily available.

And then there's the matter of those games potentially being so important. I know people like to say that a win in April is worth as much as a win in September, and in a way, those people are right. But think of this in win expectancy terms. In the end, we know that a run scored in the first inning is worth as much as a run scored in the ninth inning, but within an individual game, the leverage increases if the score is close. It's similar within an individual season. If the race is tight, the later games take on more meaning - especially the later games against your competition. You can think of signing Bedard, then, as giving the M's a potential opportunity to "pinch-pitch" some critical starts.

To say nothing of the possible value of having Bedard healthy in the playoffs.

Erik Bedard is as far from a guarantee to contribute as pretty much any starter in the league. He's still rehabbing from a major operation on his shoulder, and there's no telling exactly how he comes out of this. For all I know, his career could be finished. Presumably, though, the M's would give him a thorough examination before bringing him back, and if he checks out, then that's encouraging. That would put him in line to pick up some potentially significant innings in the second half. He obviously wouldn't be able to throw as many innings as, say, a Jarrod Washburn, but he packs just as much value - if not more - in less than half the time, and we have more than enough bodies to get by for a few months were nobody else to be brought in. And hey, if it gets to be July and Bedard has a setback or whatever, then you can make a trade. He doesn't block you the way another pitcher might.

I'm not sure if this is the way the Mariners are leaning, but if it is, I like it. The last time Erik Bedard was healthy, he ran a 3.19 FIP. The last time Erik Bedard wasn't healthy, he ran a 3.9 FIP anyway. When he's on the mound, Bedard is a good pitcher with the chance to be a great one, and there aren't a lot of guys out there this cheap who pack this much potential impact.

Erik Bedard, everybody. For real.

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