So, for potentially murky reasons, the Mariners whiffed on Hiroki Kuroda. Say what you will about the wisdom of giving that guy $35m+ over three years; the bottom line is that, no matter how you feel about Kuroda, the M's were banking on landing him, and now that they they've missed out they have to go to the backup plan. And this isn't an organization that excels at backup plans.
The four most prominent names right now are Bedard, Johan Santana, Carlos Silva, and Kyle Lohse. The Mariners aren't going to get Santana, though, and since no one in his right mind wants to talk about Silva or Lohse on purpose, we're left with Bedard. Let's brainstorm.
I'll get right to it - trading for Bedard, to me, only make sense if you think the Mariners have a 2008-2009 window of opportunity that they have to seize. After that, of course, he's due to be a free agent.
It's a tempting idea. Erik Bedard was the best pitcher in baseball last year, and it'd be hard to beat a one-two punch of Bedard/Felix, assuming Felix finally gets his shit together. Granted, that's only two players, but back in 2001 Arizona rode Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, and an offense no better than ours all the way to a championship. It's funny how far you can get sometimes with an average roster topped off by two aces.
That would definitely be the biggest selling point, I think. "Mariners need pitching, land ace to pair with developing phenom." A #1 starter is perceived as the most dramatic roster upgrade you can get from any one player, and were the M's to bring him in, they'd be in terrific shape for the playoffs were they to win the division or, somehow, the Wild Card. And the whole deal would also serve to re-energize a fan base that's still sore from last August. Try to imagine trading for Erik Bedard and then not being at least a little more excited for the season to start. You can't. The immediate emotional response to acquiring that kind of pitcher is quite positive.
That's the upside. If you think the Mariners ought to be playing for the next two years, then Bedard's not a bad guy to go after. He'd make the team ~30 runs better by himself, and he'd give us arguably the best 1-2 starters in baseball (unless Boston ends up with Santana). You better believe teams would be openly weeping at the prospect of having to face both Bedard and Felix in a three-game series.
Now, what about the other perspective?
There are two ways to look at this from the other side. The first is by calling into question the true impact of trading for Bedard. Bedard projects to be somewhere around 30 runs better than an average starter next year (give or take, I dunno, five). That'd be a huge gain for the Mariners, but you can't just take that number and run with it, because there'd be more to the deal. At the bare minimum, you'd be losing Adam Jones from the ML roster. You then have to replace Jones with somebody. Wlad? That'll cost you ten runs with the glove. Trot Nixon? Kenny Lofton? No better. Geoff Jenkins would be cool, but he's on the verge of signing somewhere else. Brad Wilkerson? Okay, whatever, but he's no AJ. The point is, replacing Jones with an inferior right fielder takes away from the value that Bedard adds to the roster. And if you have to give away other bits of the roster, too (like Sherrill), then you're losing even more. This point is largely moot if you don't think that AJ is ready to contribute, but I think he is, so, yeah.
The other way to look at it is this - 2008/2009 window? Really? The Mariners finished six games behind the Angels last season, and in Pythagorean terms, they were really more like ten games worse. So far this winter the Angels have lost Orlando Cabrera and gained Torii Hunter and Jon Garland. The Mariners, meanwhile, have lost Jose Guillen and replaced him with Adam Jones. Yeah, Weaver and (probably) Horacio are taking their 47 miserable starts somewhere else, but LA's also ditching Bartolo Colon, so even if we've made up a little ground, the gap between us is still damn big, too big for Bedard to erase by himself. Bring him in and we're still just a better version of the second-best team in the division.
For what reason should we be focusing on the next two years? The Mariners don't have a prayer of winning the Wild Card, meaning the West is our only shot, and the Angels are a significantly better team than we are. If anything, we should be re-stocking so as to mount a charge after the next two years. Not only is a lot of the Angels' core over 30, but everyone important besides Hunter, Matthews, Kotchman, Kendrick, and Weaver is coming up on free agency. The Mariners, meanwhile, will have all of their crap coming off the books and a lot of their young talent coming up through the ranks to join Ichiro, Felix, Morrow, JJ, and Yuni. Opportunity beckons. We just have to be patient.
I'll stop there because that's basically a whole other post. What it comes down to is that I can't in good faith support the idea of unloading a hefty package to bring in Erik Bedard. If the Mariners were just about even with the Angels, or if the Wild Card were wide open, then yeah, I'd be more receptive, but they're behind the rest of the pack by a comfortable margin, and if Bedard only increases the odds of making the postseason from, say, 15% to 20-25%, then I don't think it's worth it. The long-term cost would just be far too large for the short-term gain.
This isn't just a case of some Mariners blogger overrating his team's prospects, either. Jones isn't a sure thing. Morrow isn't a sure thing. Nobody, not even Triunfel, is a sure thing. Everybody we'd trade for Bedard could turn into a bust. However, just because something could happen doesn't make it a valid reason to make a move or stand still; you need to look at the probabilities, and to me they say that we'd be better off keeping Jones+ than we would be dealing them for two seasons of Bedard.
Look, in no way do I want to just write off both 2008 and 2009 in anticipation of making a run three years from now. This isn't a bad team, and conceding defeat this early on the heels of the first interesting summer in ages isn't going to make people happy. With that said, there are ways to make this team better, ways to make it more competitive, that don't involve sacrificing so much of our promising future. Trade for one of the Devil Rays. Pay someone to take Sexson and bring in a left fielder. Sign Colon, Clement, or some other reclamation project and hope they stay healthy long enough for Morrow to make some major strides in AAA. And so on and so forth. None of these things is nearly as sexy as bringing in a clear #1, but as a whole they're just about as effective, and none of them involves giving away many things we may need down the road. That's the key. What Bill Bavasi should be doing right now is figuring out a way to make this team better while simultaneously protecting much of the talent that could help us later on, when our chances will be better.
I absolutely love Erik Bedard. He's a phenomenal and inexplicably underrated stud starting pitcher, and if the Mariners bring him in, then two days out of every five, I won't be able to wait for the first pitch.
I do not, however, think that trading for him, at the assumed price, would be in our best interests. Not for a team in our position.