M's will pay big price if Bedard deal is a go
Seattle Times baseball reporter
If the Mariners' trade with the Orioles doesn't work out, maybe they should call the Sonics.
The trio of young pitchers they're talking to Baltimore about as part of the Erik Bedard package — 6-foot-9 Kam Mickolio, 6-foot-7 Tony Butler and 6-foot-5 Chris Tillman — might be able to help the Supes' front line.
Put down your phone, Sam Presti. All current indications are that, after all the histrionics of the past week, the Mariners and Orioles will really, truly, actually, once and for all, no turning back, no mulligans, no backing out, no passing go, get this trade done. But check back tomorrow, because nothing is for certain in this messed-up deal.
If the deal gets done, the burning question becomes, what hath Bill Bavasi wrought? Certainly, he will have obtained a gem of a left-handed pitcher in Bedard, one that — health permitting — should be hitting a five-year prime stretch as one of the game's elite pitchers.
The Orioles endured his serious injury stage (reconstructive elbow surgery in 2002), his rehab stage (a grand total of 20 innings pitched in 2003, all in the low minors), his learning-the-ropes stage (a 12-18 record in 50 major-league starts in 2004-05), and his blossoming stage (15 wins in 2006, a franchise-record 221 strikeouts in '07).
Presumably, the Mariners now get the benefit — for at least two years, anyway — of his full-fledged super-arm stage. But at what cost? The consensus among scouts, baseball executives and others who follow minor-league prospects for a living is that the Orioles are getting a mother lode of talent in return.
If the deal turns out to be as speculated this past week — Bedard for Adam Jones, reliever George Sherrill and the aforementioned triplet towers of Tillman, Mickolio and Butler (to rank them by potential rather than height) — then the Orioles will have gone a long way toward replenishing their sagging talent base.
(By the way, despite Internet reports, Jones was not in Baltimore for a physical on Friday. As of Saturday, he was still at home.)
One longtime baseball scout said this week of the Orioles owner, "If Peter Angelos doesn't make this deal, he's a moron. If you keep Erik Bedard, you're not going to win. They need bodies. You have to look three to five years down the road."
Indeed, every analyst I talked to rates the Orioles' haul from the Mariners, if as advertised, as superior to that obtained by the Twins in exchange for Johan Santana. And it starts with Jones and Tillman, who trump the top two sent to Minnesota by the Mets, outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitcher Deolis Guerra.
"It's fair to say that if the Yankees weren't going to offer Philip Hughes [for Santana], then Adam Jones was the next-best player talked about in any of these pitcher-for-prospects trades — Dan Haren [who went from Oakland to Arizona], Santana and Bedard," said John Manuel, an editor at Baseball America.
"None of the players the A's got is better than Jones. There's a small chance Gomez can be better; he's a similar five-tool center fielder who doesn't command the strike zone, but Jones had significantly more power in the minors. I've talked to a lot more scouts that like Adam Jones.
"And then there's Tillman, who coming out of California in '06 was considered a bigger deal than [Yankees' premier pitching prospect] Ian Kennedy by most scouts. He throws harder and has a better body.
"I'd take Tillman over Guerra, and Jones over Gomez. I'm not sure about Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey [two pitchers sent to Minnesota in the Santana trade]. They're just extra guys, No. 4 or 5 starters.' "
The Orioles also, don't forget, would get a lights-out lefty in Sherrill, who stands to be their closer. In 195 games with the Mariners, Sherrill gave up just 95 hits in 128-1/3 innings while striking out 138. Last year, he was dominant, limiting opposing hitters to a .179 average — .156 by lefties.
Assessing Tillman, one scout said, "He's definitely the prize of the pitchers. Now that he's found his fastball and curve, he has a chance to be a solid No. 2 or 3 on a good team. He's 94-95 [mph] with a plus curve and a change."
Said Manuel: "Tillman is how you draw it up: Good pro body, athletic, two pitches potentially above average. The Mariners were aggressive with him, and he responded pretty well — more than a strikeout an inning, and he pitched fearlessly at High Desert as an 18-year-old."
Butler struggled at times in 2007 at Class A Wisconsin (4-7, 4.75 earned-run average), partly a reflection of poor support and talent on the 53-85 Timber Rattlers. One scout still thinks he has "a big upside," but there is concern over a stressful delivery and a drop in velocity since he went in the third round in the 2006 draft.
Mickolio was a real find for the Mariners in the 18th round in 2006 out of Utah Valley State College after not playing high-school baseball in Bozeman, Mont.
He soared through the Mariners' farm system in 2007, going 3-1 with a 1.82 ERA in 18 relief appearances at Class AA; he was 3-3 with a 3.75 ERA and one save in 14 games for Tacoma, striking out 28 in 24 innings.
Scouts like his size and delivery angle, as well as his sinking fastball, and project him as a middle or setup reliever in the majors.
One major-league executive said, "It's a lot to give up, but the Mariners have to make that trade. So do the Orioles. With Felix and Bedard, it gives the Mariners a rotation that can compete with the Angels. And it gives the Orioles the pieces to rebuild a sorry situation."
It's high-risk, high-reward in both directions.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or email@example.com
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