Bedard trade a major move for Mariners

Bedard trade a big move for Mariners

While much of the winter's attention was paid to the expensive pursuit of Johan Santana, the Seattle Mariners were quietly working on their own acquisition of an extremely talented lefty.

On Friday they got their man, Erik Bedard, in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles. The Mariners paid dearly for him, parting with prized outfield prospect Adam Jones, reliever George Sherrill and three Minor League pitching prospects. But it was a case of giving value to get value, and Bedard is definitely valuable.

Though Bedard does not have Santana's name recognition, his stuff is basically as good as anybody's in the game. The evidence for that is clearly suggested by his 2007 numbers, which included 221 strikeouts in 182 innings. It is true that Bedard lost September to a strained right oblique. Still, he was 13-5 for a losing team, and hey, it wasn't an arm injury.

Plus, Bedard will be 30 when the 2009 season starts. A relatively late bloomer, he has not suffered a great deal of wear and tear. And making him an especially reasonable acquisition in these times of inflated pitching prices is the fact that he will not become eligible for free agency until after the 2009 season.

The Mariners spent two months attempting to put together this trade, and even if the deal never generated the buzz that the Santana speculation had, it is still a major move for the Seattle franchise.

The Mariners finished 88-74 last season, in second place, six games off the pace in the American League West and six games out of the Wild Card berth. They were genuine contenders, placing themselves in a circumstance where a move like the acquisition of Bedard made perfect sense.

With Bedard and Felix Hernandez, the Mariners have the potential of one of the best one-two rotation combinations in the game. This can't be the whole deal over a 162-game season, but it is, literally, a start. Or two starts.

Imagine both Bedard and Hernandez pitching to their considerable potential over the course of an entire season. Those kinds of performances, which are far from unrealistic expectations, could make the difference between being a contending club and being a postseason club.

Given those kinds of performances, the rest of the Seattle rotation would have to be merely competent. The record says that some combination of Jerrod Washburn, Miguel Batista, Carlos Silva and, possibly, Horacio Ramirez, can be at least that good.

This was precisely the kind of move the Mariners needed to make. If one or more of the talented youngsters they sent to the retooling Orioles turns out to be a star, that won't make this move wrong, either. Bedard is a significant -- if somewhat underpublicized -- talent, and he wasn't going to be obtained on the cheap. Now it's up to him to pitch the way he pitched from April into August last season. The thing is, he's already done it, so that kind of performance is a legitimate expectation as opposed to a wisp of hope.

Hot Stove

The Mariners in 2007 had a team ERA of 4.73, an even 0.50 higher than the division-winning Angels. Getting Bedard addresses that gap in the most direct way possible. What the Mariners needed was another top-of-the-line starter. They found him, and, at least for the foreseeable future, he won't quite cost them Santana money.

This deal doesn't guarantee the Mariners a division title. The Angels, with the addition of Torii Hunter, aren't getting any worse. But this is the kind of a deal that a team makes when it is realistically within sight of the top.

There aren't many pitchers with Bedard's ability, and the Seattle Mariners were wise to take enough time and spend enough talent to get him.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.