The deal itself is another good one. Yes, Bedard has some serious injury concerns. However, is he that much worse than Ben Sheets, who got $10 million guaranteed from the A's? Here are their cumulative numbers from the last three seasons, side-by-side:
|Erik Bedard||Ben Sheets|
How exactly did one of these guys get $10 million guaranteed, while the other got only $1.5 million (plus lots of incentives)?
Also, if you care about the difference in leagues (and you should), Sheets compiled his numbers in the National League, which has clearly been weaker for many years now. Furthermore, Sheets missed ALL of last year, while Bedard missed significant parts of the last two years. Maybe that points to more chronic injury concerns for Erik, but at the same time, I think it makes him less of an enigma heading into this season.
Given that Bedard is guaranteed to miss at least a few months, I can see how Sheets would net more guaranteed money. The gap between the contracts is too extreme though.
Anyway, that's all to say that this is a good deal for the Mariners, based on the market set this off-season. However, what does this deal do for the Mariners on the field?
The short answer is nothing, and as the season rolls along, hopefully something. Bedard probably comes back sometime in June, and he will be rusty. It is one thing to get back on the field, and another to regain form. This could especially be the case with Bedard, considering his big pitch is a devastating curve ball. The thing has so much movement it was hard for him to control even when he was at his best, as evidenced by all the walks. Even if Bedard retains his curve's devastating movement after arm surgery, he will have to rediscover his feel for it. That likely translates to lots of walks, which means many precarious (and brief) outings.
However, the upside is inescapable. What if Bedard rounds back into form after a couple months back on the mound? He should get sharper as the season progresses. The M's could roll out three pitchers capable of completely shutting down teams on a routine basis. In a playoff series, that would be terrifying for an opponent.
The terms of the deal are interesting too. Although the M's budget is unknown, it seems unlikely that they had $8.5 million left to spend. I seriously doubt that Bedard earns all the incentives, even though I have no idea what it takes for them to kick in. Still, ownership had to sign off on the deal, which means they are willing to potentially pay that much if everything goes a certain way. I'd think part of the reason is because, realistically, if Erik reaches his incentives, the M's have three aces, and that is probably enough to make the playoffs.
Still, it's worth noting what this deal signals about what we don't know. I think part of the reason Jack Z adamantly refutes budget rumors is because it is probably fluid. He will lobby for more money if a deal warrants it, and I think he did to make the Bedard deal happen. Ownership seems to be open to Z's persuasion too, and trusts him enough to go potentially beyond budget if it means winning big.
What a difference a couple years makes. Erik Bedard came to the Mariners the anointed ace, with all the pressure to be the missing piece. He came to Seattle a little surly, very stand-offish, and with a promise to test free agency when he got the chance. With how things went, it was so easy to hate him.
Now, Bedard comes back on an incentive-laden deal. He said Seattle was his top choice, and he sees himself as starter 3A once healthy. This is not the same pitcher, or situation, but ironically enough, the stage is set for him to be the missing piece the M's thought they were getting in the first place.
Sequels tend to be disappointments, but here's hoping that this one is different. There are good reasons to think it will be too.