Monday, November 9, 2009

Eric Bedard To Yankees?

A couple years ago, Eric Bedard was considered a frontline, blue chip number 1 starter. The Mariners, after trading the house to get Bedard, even used him as their 2008 Opening Day starter over Felix Hernandez.

Then the roof fell in.

Injuries, and an indifferent attitude have made his time in Seattle completely forgettable. Though Bedard hasn’t pitched poorly—when he’s pitched—the problem is he spent more time in Seattle mooching off the Mariners’ medical benefits rather than striking out hitters. In 2 seasons, Bedard pitched 160-odd innings and won 11 games. Sorta like a Seattle Carl Pavano, if you will.

Which is why I propose Eric Bedard should sign an incentive-based contract with the Yankees. It might be just what Bedard needs. And vice versa.

Last year, Andy Pettitte signed a contract with the Yankees that guaranteed him 5.5 million plus another 6.5 million for not-that-hard-to-get incentives (Andy, I believe got all the incentives) that put him at 12 million—higher than the 10-11 million Pettitte was negotiating for.

Say Bedard signs a contract like that with the Yankees. Guaranteed 6 million. Bedard’s contract last year was for 7.75 million, so its not that much of a loss should he be out the entire season.

But, add some incentives along the lines of Andy Pettitte’s. $500,000 each for 160 IP, 170 IP and 180 IP. Then $750,000 for 190 IP, 200 IP and 210. Then some other incentives for being on the 25-man roster, reaching certain performance levels (strikeouts, wins, etc), and you end up with a contract that could reach 12-13 million or so.

If Bedard earns $13 million, the Yankees probably would be happy to pay. It would mean he’s healthy and pitching right. If he doesn’t and 2010 is a wash, he earns his 5 mill or so and leaves. For the Yankees it’s low-risk. But it is potentially high reward.

The Yankees went with a three-man rotation in the postseason because that was all they had in terms of reliable starting pitching. Chamberlain was on the “Joba Count” all season. Wang was lost until at least mid 2010. And Chad Gaudin—who pitched pretty decently—was still, for the long term, a question mark.

And while the Joba Count should be off next year, who knows how Joba will respond—the dominator who pitched with aggression and confidence in the postseason—7 Ks in 6.1 IP, sub-3.00 ERA)? Or the tentative, sometimes-lost youngster who had a 1.544 WHIP and a 4.75 ERA?

Also, the Yankees are making noise about putting Phil Hughes back into the rotation. Which would mean the Yankees would have to utilize the “Hughes Rules”. Hughes has only pitched a high of 86 innings in a season—even less than the 100.1IP Chamberlain pitched in 2008—which means Hughes would again be on short pitch counts and might spend some healthy time on the bench.

And who knows if Pettitte will come back. And if he does, would he be healthy. Would Burnett—a notorious Injury Report dweller before last season’s relative health—remain healthy again? Will Wang come back? Do the Yankees even want him? And they do, does he have anything left in his shoulder?

All of this means the Yankees have a surprising amount of question in their rotation, despite winning the World Series on the strength of their staff. Sabathia is a rock at the 1 position, Burnett is a good 2, assuming he remains healthy, Pettitte is a nice 3, but will be 38 and has had shoulder trouble before. At the 4 and 5 spots; Chamberlain is extremely talented, but so far, extremely erratic. Same goes for Hughes—talented but erratic—and with a short pitch count.

And that’s where Bedard would be a godsend. Bedard has been a stud in his career—before his time in Seattle, Bedard was healthy in 4 seasons as a starter in Baltimore. And in those 4 years, Bedard dropped his ERA as well as his WHIP precipitously each season, from a 4.59 to a 3.16 ERA and from a 1.602 to a 1.193 WHIP. In 2007, his last year in Baltimore, Bedard led the AL in hits per 9 IP (6.973), through 5 shutouts and had the 4th lowest ERA with a 3.165. Not bad, eh?

Reportedly, Bedard, who is from Ottawa, wants to return to the East Coast, and with the Yankees as World Series champs, they would be in a very attractive position. Also, the Yankees could probably offer a very nice financial package—the one suggested above would be a nice example—that could interest Bedard.

Right now, Bedard needs to show the world that he can still pitch. He would turn 32 in March 2010, and is at a point in his career where he would like to earn his final big paycheck. While that most likely wont happen this offseason—most teams are still with a diminished revenue base due to the economic recession and wont throw it at a guy with injury issues—the Yankees still have the cash to spend. An Pettitte-type contract makes sense for both sides. Both sides should make this happen.

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