The Seattle Mariners' rumored acquisition of lefty Erik Bedard finally came to fruition last week.
The Mariners and Baltimore Orioles consummated the deal that sent the former O's ace to the Pacific Northwest for outfielder Adam Jones, lefty reliever George Sherill, and three minor-leaguers.
Bedard had a career year last season, making 28 starts and posting a 13-5 record and a 3.16 ERA, fourth-best in the American League. Bedard, who also ranked third in the AL in strikeouts with 221, led the league with an impressive 10.93 K's per nine innings pitched.
Bedard, who will turn 29 come spring training, is expected to team up with 21-year-old ace Felix Hernandez to form a solid 1-2 punch atop the Mariners' rotation.
Hernandez finished with a 14-7 mark with a rather high ERA of 3.92. Despite ending the season 8-1 in his last 13 starts, Hernandez has been inconsistent in his brief major-league career. In fact, in those 13 appearances, Hernandez was tagged for a whopping .272 average by opposing batters.
Not exactly the numbers you would expect out of the team's ace.
However, Hernandez is still young and has a lot of upside, and has already been labeled as possibly the AL's next great pitcher by many.
For the Mariners to contend in 2007, he and Bedard will have to dominate.
Will the pair be able to pull it off?
At this point, it is too early to tell. Neither of the two has ever pitched more than 200 innings in any big-league season. Can the duo be counted upon to make 35 starts apiece and anchor the Mariners' rotation?
The Mariners do have an innings-eater in newcomer Carlos Silva, late of the Minnesota Twins. And Silva didn't come cheap, getting a huge $48-million contract over four years despite never having won more than 14 games in any season.
In fact, Silva has been a sub-.500 pitcher the last two seasons (11-15, 13-14) with a contending Twins club and is coming off a season in which he had a 4.19 ERA in 33 starts.
For Silva to be successful, he'll have to stay away from the long ball, which the right-hander was able to do in 2007, surrendering almost half the total (20) he gave up in 2006 (38).
Another starter the M's will have to rely on is Miguel Batista, who won a career-high 16 games in his first season in Seattle in '07. Where would the Mariners have been without Batista's contributions last season?
But realistically, should either Bedard or Hernandez falter and the M's have to rely on Batista and Silva at the top of the rotation, the team would be in trouble.
However, if the starters do their jobs, the Mariners will have a chance on most nights. Someone will have to step up this season for the M's, who haven't had a 200-inning man since ex-Mariner Jamie Moyer turned the trick in 2005.
The young arms in the bullpen will have to come up big again this year, just as they did in the first half last season before collapsing in August. J.J. Putz, one of the top closers in the AL, will have to continue being dominant and follow up on his 40-save, 1.38 ERA campaign.
The pitching will obviously be a big key for the Mariners, who despite finishing No. 2 in the league in hitting (.287), aren't exactly an offensive Juggernaut.
Third baseman Adrian Beltre led Seattle with 26 homers in 2007, but is that really enough? Ichiro Suzuki, who fell just short of the batting crown despite a .351 average, is still a force but for how much longer? Ichiro is now 33 and is he really happy playing in Seattle?
The biggest challenge for the Mariners in the West will undoubtedly be the Vladimir Guerrero-led L.A. Angels, who have won three division titles in the last four years in addition to the 2002 World Series.
With the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees once again favored to battle it out for the AL East and Wild Card, it appears the M's will have to win the AL West outright in order to reach the post-season for the first time since 2001.
Seattle finished six games behind the Angels in 2007 with an 88-74 record.
Will Bedard be the ace or No. 2 man that the M's are heavily relying on? How will Silva fare?
Mariners fans are undoubtedly waiting for the season to start and the impact that Bedard will bring.
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