Mariners seal deal for Bedard
Fireballing lefty arrives as Seattle sends five players to O's
SEATTLE -- After several weeks of talks, followed by a period of patience, the Mariners solidified their revamped starting rotation on Friday afternoon by announcing the completion of a trade for left-hander Erik Bedard.Seattle sent highly touted outfielder Adam Jones, left-handed reliever George Sherrill and Minor League pitchers Chris Tillman, Kam Mickolio and Tony Butler to the Orioles for Bedard, regarded as one of the best left-handers in Major League Baseball. The much-discussed trade was finalized after Bedard passed a physical exam in Seattle. He was introduced to the Seattle-based media during an afternoon press conference at Safeco Field. Along with right-hander Felix Hernandez, Bedard will give Seattle a terrific one-two punch at the top of the rotation and presumably make the Mariners serious threats to unseat the Angels atop the American League West. "This gives us, what we think, is a good rotation, one through five," general manager Bill Bavasi said. "We did give up some good young kids, but we think now it's time go out and win. That's the most significant aspect of this deal." Said Bedard of Hernandez: "He's young, has good control and I think he's the number one." In that case, Bedard would be No. 1A. The acquisition of Bedard completes the Mariners' offseason goal of bolstering the starting rotation, which wobbled most of last season before having the wheels come off in late August and early September. The first step was adding right-hander Carlos Silva via the free-agent market. The second step was landing Bedard, something that took nearly two months to pull off. Bedard, who will be 29 on March 6, won nine of his last 10 decisions last season and posted a record of 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA. He was a 15-game winner in 2006.
First impressions are that he lets his pitching do most of the talking."This is a young guy that is all business," Bavasi said. "He has a good sense of humor, but I will not tell you he is long-winded. From our point of view, he doesn't like to talk about himself, but for us it's a breath of fresh air." True to form, Bedard kept his words to a minimum during the press conference.
"I am just going to bring a lot of intensity, and do my best to try to win some games," he said. "There are some good hitters here, some good young hitters and good pitching. With the addition of me, I think we're going to be pretty good."The Mariners are banking on it. Bavasi said the projected five-man rotation of Bedard, Hernandez, Silva, Miguel Batista and Jarrod Washburn "may be as good as there is." Each of the starters has won at least 14 games in a season. Putting the final piece of the rotation puzzle in place took much longer than expected and went through more twists than imaginable. "This was a high-stakes deal and there were a lot of details to it," Bavasi said. "We felt all along that it would go through." After reaching an agreement in principle -- pending physicals -- on Jan. 26, news of the deal first broke the following day when Jones, playing for the Venezuela Winter League Lara Cardenales, told a Venezuelan reporter that he'd been traded to the Orioles and was supposed to fly to Baltimore the following day for a physical. That sent both teams into reactionary denial mode, and the story soon spiraled out of control. There have been rumors that Orioles ownership had nixed the deal and that Jones had a medical condition causing the delay, but the deal continued to progress slowly. "Everything Adam said was appropriate," Bavasi said. "He was trying to show a lot of respect for Erik and at the same time be thankful for this club. I doubt [his impromptu interview] was too much of an issue." "I didn't really follow it," Bedard said of the much-delayed deal. "In Ottawa, there's not much baseball news and I just waited for my agent to call me and tell me I'm going to Seattle." Now that he's here, Bedard said "the stadium is nice" and he regards it as a pitcher's ballpark. He is under contractual control for two more seasons, and is eligible for salary arbitration. A hearing is scheduled for later this month. He requested an $8 million salary while the Orioles countered at $6 million. The Mariners assume the salary arbitration situation, and Bavasi has a perfect record of never going to a hearing with one of his players. Bavasi said he would work with Bedard's agent, Mark Pieper, on the contract issue. Jones, 23, has long been regarded as the Mariners' most prized prospect, a potential All-Star. He hit .314 with 25 home runs and 84 RBIs for Triple-A Tacoma last season and was named Seattle's Minor League Player of the Year. That was the second time he's earned that designation. Jones, a former shortstop and former first-round Draft pick, made his big league debut before his 21st birthday and has hit .230 in 139 Major League at-bats. Tillman, Seattle's Minor League Pitcher of the Year, has averaged nearly 10 strikeouts per nine innings in the Minor Leagues. The former second-round pick made 20 starts in the offense-friendly California League last year, notching a 6-7 record and a 5.26 ERA. The 19-year-old rung up 105 strikeouts and walked 48 batters for Class A High Desert. Sherrill and Jones went to Baltimore earlier this week for physicals. Sherrill had been working out at the Mariners' Spring Training Complex in Peoria, Ariz., while awaiting word on the final chapter of the saga. Sherrill said he would take a Saturday night red-eye flight from Phoenix to Florida, where the Orioles begin Spring Training next week. "There's a sigh of relief to finally know something for sure," he said. "I'm not sure what role they have in mind for me, but it will be a new experience for me, a new division. I enjoyed my time in Seattle."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.