With the Mariners remaining four games out of first place in the American League West, there is little change to their potential as buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, but that shouldn’t stop speculation about the two most important opportunities for the Mariners to build toward the future: Erik Bedard and Jarrod Washburn.
Washburn and Bedard have done a lot to affect their value this season, though they both started at opposite ends of the spectrum, they’ve barreled closer to a collision in the middle as the 2009 season has worn on.
Bedard had to prove that he was able to stay healthy this season for the Mariners to see a rise in his value, and he didn’t do that. Bedard is making his third start today since coming off the disabled list, where he spent a month.
His velocity has been good, pitching in the low-to-mid 90s and though his command has been spotty the action on his off speed pitches has been adequate. He remains plagued by his inability to go deep into games, a product of his command and tendency to pitch for strikeouts rather than quick outs.
Washburn by contrast has been a surprisingly successful pitcher this year. After three seasons where his ERA was in the mid-four range, and his WHIP over 1.350 each season, he’s found a groove. The hard luck loser in recent years has remained a victim of little run support, but sports an ERA under three and a WHIP of 1.086.
Washburn has averaged about six-and-two-thirds innings per game, and despite being on pace to give up more homeruns than last season he’s reduced his opponents slugging percentage to .355, down from .463 last season.
Much of the decrease has been done by virtue of giving up less hits than innings pitched, at least to this point of the season, for the first time since 2003. However, as I’ve written about twice this season, a lot of credit may belong to the team’s two-thirds new outfield.
Considering that the team is in a playoff push, trading 40 percent of their starting rotation may seem asinine. However, though both pitchers’ pasts give them limited value, though for different reasons, they almost assuredly hold more value to at least a couple of teams than they do for the Mariners.
The Mariners, mostly because of Jack Zduriencik’s dealing in the offseason, have a surplus of starting pitching. While they don’t possess a Rick Porcello, Clay Bucholz, Madison Bumgarner type of arm in their farm system, they’ve got a glut of major-league-ready lefties in Ryan Rowland-Smith, Jason Vargas and Garrett Olson, each of whom probably profiles as a mid-late rotation starter.
While Vargas has been impressive in bursts this year, previous to unraveling in the wet, light air in Denver, he’s probably got the lowest ceiling of the three.
Rowland-Smith was impressive last season in a brief stint as a starter, and his return to the Mariners rotation, likely to occur later this month, is much anticipated.
Olson on the other hand, has been unimpressive to some, but shown massive improvement upon deeper examination of his statistics to this point in the season. Olson, barring a trade, will likely be the topic of an entire column.
Each young pitcher is under team control beyond 2009, all at a far lower cost than Bedard and Washburn, each of whom is a free agent after this year.
Both have expressed their liking for Seattle at some point during this season, and though a trade would be unfortunate for each, their impending free agency doesn’t preclude a return, presuming their sentiments are genuine.
But each pitcher’s value is unclear.
U.S.S. Mariner presented a strong argument for trading both for J.J. Hardy, a well-rounded, mid-20s shortstop for the Milwaukee Brewers.
The problem of course is allocating salaries. The chances of the Brewers taking on the remaining nearly $8 million left for the two combined is unlikely. Also, considering that the Milwaukee Brewers are eager to bring Alcides Escobar to the big leagues, Hardy’s departure may be expedited to the point where the Mariners may be able to underpay for him.
By contrast, the Phillies are so desperate for starting pitching in the wake of the struggles of Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton, and an injury to Brett Myers, they signed Pedro Martinez. They appear to be the front runners to acquire Roy Halladay, who will likely be the trade market’s compass.
Last year the team expressed interest in Erik Bedard, who could remain the second best pitcher on the market despite his injuries.
Last year, following the CC Sabathia trade, the Oakland Athletics were able to pull a pretty decent haul from the Chicago Cubs for Rich Harden. Though Harden was amidst perhaps his best season as a professional, he was similarly injury-prone and was in the middle of a similarly short-outing laden season.
The A’s acquired Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, Josh Phelps, and Eric Patterson from the Cubs, also giving up Chad Gaudin, a mid-20s pitcher who has bounced between starting and relieving in seven seasons and split among five teams, presently the San Diego Padres.
But Harden was younger and made less money than Bedard.
Washburn’s value, similar to the valuation of Russell Branyan that I discussed earlier this week, is undoubtedly higher among traditional, tools and scouting based front offices.
They haggled over outfielders Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, and left handed pitcher Kei Igawa. While Igawa’s career as a major league pitcher appears to be close to over, both Gardner and Cabrera have posted respectable seasons, though Cabrera’s power numbers have been aided by the new, homer-happy Yankee Stadium, where he’s hit seven of his eight home runs.
However, unknown at the time, was that the Mariners would acquire one of the top young outfielders in baseball in Franklin Gutierrez.
The Yankees have since signed Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, and would likely have little to no interest in Washburn at this point, but the Twins may remain a viable destination.
Considering that both Bedard and Washburn will likely fall out of the Type A category for free agents, and while each may fall into the Type B category, the team would be irresponsible to offer Washburn arbitration, which they’d have to do to garner compensation, and the modest compensation for Type B free agents likely doesn’t match what the Mariners could get for Bedard in a trade.