Bedard: Keep Him or Trade Him

December 06, 2007 | WNST Interns

Should the Orioles keep Erik Bedard or should they deal him? This was a topic that Bob and I touched on today on the air. After we ended the call, I really started to think about the dilemma and how important it was to the Orioles immediate future.

Again, here’s what I think:

With the situation being that Bedard is under Orioles control for two more seasons, trading him now would be crazy. I don’t care what the Orioles think their chances of signing him are. Seriously, what’s the rush? Don’t trade him and don’t extend him. Not yet. Not with two seasons between him and free agency.
But make no mistake about it; this is a big situation for the Orioles. It’s not everyday that you have a left-handed Cy Young candidate who you can either extend or trade. The Orioles must handle this well. Here’s how I would do it. Call it free advice from a Yankee fan.
If I were in charge, my goal would be to keep him. Let’s face it, he missed the last month of the season and still struck out more batters than any Oriole pitcher in history. That’s 54 years folks! You don’t just deal away someone like that. You start the season, and assuming he continues to be really good, you begin your bid to resign him somewhere around August of ’08, with the goal of getting it done before the end of the season. It’s that simple.
Now, for the regular detractors.
Why would you sign him so early? What if he gets hurt? If this were a poker game, the Orioles would be short stacked. They have ten consecutive losing seasons and the Yankees and Red Sox are showing no signs of slowing down. If the Orioles want to compete, they are going to have to take some chances. If they are going to go “all in” with anyone, why not a guy who almost won the Cy Young? If they trade Bedard away for some 20-year-old phenom, you might as well just tell the fan base to disappear for another five years. Or should I say the fan base that has already disappeared?
He’s a bad guy in the clubhouse? So was Randy Moss. So was T.O. Winning changes a lot doesn’t it? Hey, I’ve never met the kid. Maybe he is a jerk. Maybe he has no drive and no heart. Or maybe the losing environment has gotten to him.

And let’s be honest, who has he had to look up to? Who has he had to give him a little pointer here and there? A veteran whose brain Bedard could pick? My brother, Mike, has often talked about how lucky he was to have Rick Sutcliffe and Mike Flanagan on the team when he broke in, just to talk to about situations, preparation, little things like that.

Who has Bedard had to talk to, Kris Benson?

If the Orioles are competitive and Bedard still acts like he doesn’t want to be in Baltimore then they can move on from there. But right now, with the Orioles’ situation being what it was been, I wouldn’t hold any of it against him.

We have no chance to sign him. He doesn’t want to stay. This is what I think is the biggest falsehood about this entire debate. Of course the O’s have a chance to sign him. He’s a pitcher who has made less than six million dollars in his career. Do you think that if the O’s rolled out an extension worth 75 million that he would scoff at it? He’s one blown shoulder away from getting minor league contracts and non-roster invites. This is the Orioles leverage.

As I said on the air with Bob, you can’t do this with a center fielder because their odds of getting hurt aren’t nearly as great, but pitchers are much more fragile. Do you really think that a guy wouldn’t consider signing a deal that would set himself, his kids, and their kids and their kids up for life? He would certainly consider it. And if you got close to the number that he was looking for, he’d sign it. I’d bet money on it.

This is somewhat close to the situation Mike went through when he was approaching free agency. The only real difference was that Mike had more time in the league, and had already made about 35 million dollars, so he wasn’t quite as nervous as Bedard should be. Where I think the Orioles faltered with Mike is that they waited too long (February) to make their first offer and then made an offer that was about half of what it was speculated that he would get. The O’s offered 5 years, 50 million, with money deferred.

Estimates were that Mike would receive between $85-100 million on the open market. Then at the end of spring training the O’s upped the offer to 5 years 60 million with money deferred. To this offer, he again said "no" and then the Orioles made their final mistake.

They didn’t make another offer until mid-August, which was 6 years 72 million with money deferred. Now, this offer was pretty good. I think that if they would have offered this in Spring Training that Mike either would have taken it, or that it would have been close enough that they could have all locked themselves in a room and gotten in done in an hour.

But the O’s didn’t offer this in Spring Training, they offered it in mid-August. There were only six weeks left in the season. All the leverage they’d had with the fear of injury was almost gone. At that point, he’d have been crazy not to test the market.

Now, before I get inundated with emails about Mike and his career and whether he should have stayed or he shouldn’t have stayed, or that the Orioles never wanted him anyway, that is not with this is about.

This blog is not about Mike Mussina, it’s about Erik Bedard.

These are just points from the Mussina negotiation that if in fact the prior front office really wanted to resign Mike, they made mistakes (imho) that this front office can learn from in trying to resign Bedard.

Negotiations are not just about how much money and for how long, they are about timing and leverage. Right now, because the Orioles stink every year, that hurts their leverage. The fact that Bedard can’t be a free agent for two more years helps their leverage. The organization needs to decide THIS YEAR if they want to keep Bedard, and if they do, how much they need to offer to sign him, and then offer it.

I promise you, it they wait until he’s six weeks away from free agency to make their best offer they’ll lose him too. The Red Sox can do that (see Schilling and Lowell) and so can the Yankees (the same with Rivera and Posada), but the Orioles can’t. Not with the state of the union being what it is.

Now, if the organization strongly feels that Bedard can’t hold up, a la A.J. Burnett, then don’t sign him. Also, if they feel that he’s going to be a constant malcontent like say, Raul Mondesi, then again, don’t sign him. I don’t think he falls into either of these categories.

If you’re not sure if he does or doesn’t, remember beggars can’t be choosers. Sure the O’s wish that he was Johan Santana, but he isn’t. But right now, this is as good as they can get. And remember, for about three months last year Bedard pitched better than everyone, including Santana.

Detroit had to overspend on Magglio Ordonoez and Pudge Rodriguez to help turn things around. (And don’t forget Troy Percival, who didn’t quite work out.)

The O’s might not have to overspend to keep Bedard, just "early" spend. Then, if Jeremy Guthrie can again be solid, and if Adam Loewen can stay healthy, and the O’s try to sign another guy next year, it won’t be nearly as hard.

And isn’t that what is should be all about anyway? Adding a piece here and a piece there? This year just leads to next year. How the organization, or any organization in any business for that matter, handles this year will either positively or negatively impact next year.

Are the odds in the Orioles favor of overtaking the Yankees or Red Sox any time soon? No. But if they are going to try, they have to start somewhere. This is where I think they should start…in August of ’08.