Saturday, February 23, 2008

That's Erik with a "K"

Here is my belated analysis of the long, drawn out trade that sent Erik Bedard to Seattle in exchange for a slew of prospects and a middle reliever. I spoke earlier how I thought this deal, in conjunction with a Brian Roberts trade was necessary for the Orioles to begin their rebuilding process in earnest. The O's did not get the deal that was being discussed at the time, but it was a great deal for them nonetheless. The Mariners received possibly the most dominant pitcher of 2007, until his oblique strain took him out for the rest of the year. Bedard was well on his way to winning the strikeout title last year, until he hit the DL and was surpassed by Scott Kazmir and Johan Santana.

The Deal:

Mariners Get: Erik Bedard

Orioles Get: Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Tony Butler (Hi A), Chris Tillman (Hi A), and Kam Mickolio (AAA)

Seattle: The Mariners desperately needed to upgrade their starting pitching after using the likes of Horacio Ramirez and Ryan Feierabend in the rotation last year. After rushing first round pick Brandon Morrow to the big leagues, he has not developed anything past his fastball, so he will likely move back to the bullpen after the acquisition of Bedard. What Bedard gives the Mariners is one of, if not the top 1-2 punches in the Major Leagues. Combining Bedard with Felix Hernandez gives the Mariners a potentially dominant lefty/righty combination that could do real damage in a short playoff series. There is a downside to Bedard though as he has never pitched 200 innings in his career and did have Tommy John surgery several years ago. Additionally, Bedard is tough on both lefties and righties using a power arsenal of a low 90s fastball and a plus-plus curve that is the definition of an out pitch. He used his repertoire to amass 221 strikeouts in a mere 186 innings, and he lowered his walk rate to 2.8 per nine innings. He also led the AL in strikeouts per nine innings with 10.9.

Baltimore: To get everything described above, Seattle had to give up quite a lot. They gave up a total of five players, only one of which has played in the Major Leagues extensively. That means the Orioles received 4 players who have less than one year of service time, which gives them a lot of cost control over the coming years and that's exactly what they need in this stage of rebuilding.

The best player Baltimore received is Adam Jones. He is a 22 year old centerfielder who packs some punch in his swing. He is fantastic defensively, and between Jones and Nick Markakis, the Orioles should have a good outfield defense for years to come. Jones should hit for power immediately in the majors, and while he might not hit for average right away that should come in time as he's demonstrated the ability to do it in the minors. He seemed to have a better grasp of the strike zone and showed good plate discipline in Triple-A this year, and there's no reason to think that won't translate to the Majors eventually.

The other Major Leaguer involved in the deal is George Sherrill, a lefty reliever who came undrafted out of college. He could easily be more than the LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY) that Seattle used him as. He should be the favorite for the closer spot in Baltimore, as he is the one with the most recent success although he will face competition from fellow lefty specialist Jamie Walker among others. There is also the possibility that the Orioles will spin Sherrill to another team in search of a reliever at the deadline for prospects.*

Tony Butler is a 20 year old lefthander who spent the year at Low A for Seattle. He throws a high 80s/low 90s four seam fastball that shows late life, in addition to a promising curveball. He also features a change-up with good fade and deception. There is cause for worry though, as he spent time on the disabled list twice with a dead arm. However, Butler is 6-7 and at only 2o he has room to fill out his frame, and add velocity as well as consistency.

Chris Tillman is probably the second most valuable player received in this deal, or at least has the potential to be. He was pushed to Hi A as a 19 year old, and while he struggled initially, he eventually adapted to the better competition and unfriendly ballpark. He managed to maintain his strikeout rate despite the bump up, and that is certainly an encouraging sign. At 6-5, Tillman still has room to fill out, and add velocity to his solid low 90s fastball. His curve has 11-5 tilt, and he controls it with an advanced feel. His change up is easily his third offering, but it has the opportunity to be more than just a show-me pitch.

Kam Mickolio was an 18th round selection, and moved from college to Triple-A in less than a year. He features a dominating power sinker that runs between 92-97 mph. Mickolio is 6-9 and pitches from a low three quarters arm slot with some cross body deception, so the sinker bores in on right handed hitters and really gives them fits. Even though his best pitch is his sinker, he still had a 9.2 k/9 between Double and Triple-A last year. His slider is merely average, but he doesn't need it to be much more than that if he is going to remain a reliever, although he does not to improve his consistency. He also must develop a change up if he is going to be able to face lefties in the Majors.

In the end, I think the Orioles did well to get all these prospects, and while the Mariners bolster their rotation with an elite pitcher they were not as good as they appeared to be last year, and I'm not sure this is enough to move them past the Angels into the post-season. Obviously much of the season is determined by injuries and luck, but if we are to speculate on who would win the AL West now, I think that the Angels must still be the favorites.

No comments: