It was so obvious. The Red Sox needed a starter, and Erik Bedard was right there in front of them. The Saturday trade for Rich Harden shifted Bedard out of the picture, but the unsatisfactory review of Harden's medicals shifted Bedard back in, and the fact that the Red Sox were willing to go for Harden in the first place showed that they wouldn't be scared off by Bedard's history. They were looking to make a high-upside gamble, and on Sunday afternoon, right up against the deadline, they rolled the dice.
Erik Bedard is leaving for Boston. Josh Fields is leaving, too. The Mariners are receiving outfield prospects Trayvon Robinson and Chih-Hsien Chiang. This looks to be an excellent trade for the M's for reasons I'll get into later on, but first things first: Bedard.
There is too much to say about Bedard to condense into one long post, much less a few paragraphs. And we don't necessarily need to be bidding him farewell anyway, since he's a free agent in a few months and obviously likes pitching in Seattle. Chances are, though, we've seen the last of him as a Mariner. Next year's rotation doesn't have a lot of room, and if Bedard continues pitching well he could end up out of the Mariners' price range anyway.
Here's what Bedard did over parts of four seasons as a Mariner:
The entire Bedard experience, boiled down to two numbers. Bedard infrequently pitched. When he pitched, he was good, even when he was pitching hurt.
And he pitched hurt. He pitched a lot of those starts hurt. Bedard developed a bad reputation early on that he was never able to shake, a reputation for surliness and softness, but he didn't deserve it. He didn't deserve all of it, anyway, and he didn't deserve for it to last the whole time. He was definitely surly and unpleasant with the media early on, but he got better as he grew more comfortable, and he pitched when he could. People acted as if Bedard's injury-proneness somehow reflected on him as a person. He wasn't blessed with Randy Johnson's body. So what? He tried.
Even though so many fans and so many media types had negative things to say where Bedard was concerned, he willingly came back, then he willingly came back again. Bedard turned down better offers to stay with Seattle, which shows how comfortable he became with the city and the team. And he rebounded from an awful lot. Erik Bedard hasn't just been a good pitcher most of this season - he's been a good pitcher after being hurt so many times. That takes a lot of hard work, and Erik Bedard put in the work.
The results this season were good enough to help keep the M's in the race for a time. When Bedard got hurt and the M's dropped out, he became expendable, and the results were good enough to make him attractive to contenders. It turns out Bedard showed enough on Friday to keep him on the radar after all. He's on the way now to join one of the best and smartest organizations in baseball.
There will be jokes about how Bedard is too soft for the Boston environment. There will be matter-of-fact declarations that Bedard is too soft for the Boston environment. With that in mind, this Bedard interview from 2007 is interesting:
Q: Most fun city in baseball?
A: Boston. I love the stadium and the city. It's not overwhelming like New York.
Bedard may succeed in Boston. He may not. He will be criticized if he falters. But he has the ability to do great things, and if he does great things in the playoffs, he could be a legend. We've all seen how good he can be.
It's interesting that, in the four years Bedard spent with the Mariners organization, the Mariners were never in serious contention. One wonders if this trade might be the biggest contribution he's made to the team. Maybe it is and maybe it isn't, but let it be said that, no matter what you thought of Bedard's chapter in Seattle, it's ending on a high note. Bedard didn't leave the M's with nothing to show for their 2008 blockbuster. As of today, he's left the M's with a pair of real interesting prospects who aren't that far away.
So let's get to the return. Oh and also Josh Fields was included. Josh Fields is bad. Nothing against Josh Fields as a person, but Josh Fields the pitcher didn't look like he was ever going to help the Mariners. Between double-A and triple-A this year, Fields has walked 32 dudes in 39 innings. Josh Fields was drafted 20th overall. Anyway.
Of the two prospects coming back, Trayvon Robinson is the more exciting. Robinson turns 24 in September. He's a switch-hitting center fielder who's spent the year in triple-A. In triple-A, he's slugged .563, with 26 home runs and an unusual nine doubles. The caveats are pretty obvious. First of all, Albuquerque is a hitter-friendly park in a hitter-friendly league. Robinson's numbers are inflated. Second of all, a third of his swings so far this season have missed. He has a higher whiff rate in triple-A than both Greg Halman and Carlos Peguero.
But while Robinson is prone to striking out, he isn't an all-or-nothing sort, in that he knows how to work a walk. He walked 73 times a season ago. He's walked 45 times in 2011. He has an idea of the strike zone, and isn't completely flummoxed by good pitchers. In other words, there's clear offensive upside, and this from a switch-hitter who can play in the middle. Robinson's ceiling, then, is elevated. He isn't far away, and while he could bust, he could boom, and he's one of the organization's better young talents.
The other guy is Chih-Hsien Chiang, who seems like he's murder on announcers. Chiang's a 23-year-old lefty corner outfielder who's repeating double-A. But where that might be cause for alarm, here's why it isn't, so much:
2010, AA: .732 OPS
2011, AA: 1.046 OPS
Chiang's repeating, but he's also been obliterating his opponents, to the tune of a .338/.399/.647 batting line. He hasn't walked a lot, but he also hasn't developed a strikeout problem, and he's clubbed 58 extra-base hits. Last year he hit 47 in 125 more trips to the plate.
What's been the secret to Chiang's eruption? Well, if you listen to Alex Speier, it's been improved awareness and management of his diabetes. Chiang's more committed to maintaining his health now than he has been in seasons past, and the results are plainly evident. Chiang's stock is rising, and if this keeps up, he could be a quick mover.
Two prospects. Two outfield prospects in the upper levels, each of whom has some power, in exchange for a free-agent-to-be and a busted reliever. It's very possible that neither Robinson nor Chiang ever make it. Neither of them is ready now, and there are potholes and speed bumps along the way. But the Mariners just gained two good talents without really making any kind of significant sacrifice at all, and that's the sign of a hell of a trade. It is impossible to be disappointed by this.