A long-discussed but slow-to-develop trade between the Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles was finalized Friday, Feb. 8, giving the Mariners southpaw pitcher Erik Bedard in exchange for outfielder Adam Jones, left-handed reliever George Sherrill, and minor league pitchers Chris Tillman, Tony Butler and Kam Mickolio. The Mariners originally pulled Jones from winter ball Sunday, Jan. 27, and sent him to Baltimore for a physical Monday morning, Jan. 28. After several reported agreements that never came to fruition over the last two weeks, Bedard flew to Seattle on Thursday night and passed a physical to put the stamp on the deal.
The Mariners gain a top-of-the-rotation starter in Bedard; he should take some actual or perceived pressure off the shoulders of starting pitcher Felix Hernandez, who can also be regarded as having No. 1 starter's stuff. The other starters include Jarrod Washburn, Carlos Silva, and likely Miguel Batista. Bedard (oblique) won 13 games and had a league-leading 221 strikeouts last year despite missing the final month of the season with a strained oblique muscle. Bedard's ERA, WHIP and batting average against have declined over the lat three years, and he should benefit by moving from a hitters' park to a pitchers' park. Bedard should be one of the top five or six pitchers taken in fantasy drafts.
The Mariners need to find a right fielder to replace Jones, who had been slated to replace 2007 right fielder Jose Guillen. Candidates include outfielders Wladimir Balentien, Jeremy Reed and Charlton Jimerson. The 23-year-old Balentien might have the best shot after he hit .291 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI last year with Triple-A Tacoma, culminating in his being named the Pacific Coast League's Rookie of the Year. His fantasy value goes up with the opportunity before him, but he's really still no more than a sleeper at this point.
After much hype upon his debut, Reed has disappointed thus far in his major league experience with a .253 average, nine home runs and 67 RBI in 775 at-bats in the bigs. Jimerson hit 25 home runs with 80 RBIs in 99 minor league contests last year and. Neither currently holds any significant fantasy value.
On the Orioles' side, Jones likely becomes the everyday center fielder and pushes veteran outfielders Jay Payton and Tike Redman, along with younger outfielder Chris Roberson, into reserve roles. The 22-year-old, who stands at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, has developing power and decent speed on the basepaths; he hit two home runs in 65 at-bats last season for Seattle. Along with outfielders Nick Markakis and Luke Scott, Jones has the chance to help Baltimore build for the future while also getting the chance to play every day in 2008.
Jones provides another power bat in the middle of the order, which is something the team was lacking after trading shortstop Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros in the offseason. Jones already had moderate fantasy value, as he had been slated to be the Mariners' regular right fielder. However, moving from pitching-friendly Safeco Field to hitting-friendly Camden Yards can only help his offensive numbers. He's had a lot of press and won't fly under anyone's radar, but if he is still available by the middle rounds of fantasy drafts he makes a nice selection.
The loss of Bedard means the starting pitching staff members all move up a notch in the pecking order, leaving key roles to be filled by starters Jeremy Guthrie, Daniel Cabrera and Adam Loewen. Candidates for the other two rotation spots include Garrett Olson, Hayden Penn, Matt Albers and Troy Patton.
Sherrill could be a dark horse in the Orioles' closer race after recording three saves last season for Seattle. Although he's not projected to be a long-term option at the position, Sherrill has the ability to be a possible stopgap as closer Chris Ray (elbow) recovers from Tommy John surgery. Keep an eye on him as a possible late-round pickup in fantasy drafts.
All three minor league pitchers don't offer much in terms of fantasy stock. Tillman was one of the Mariners' best pitching prospects but struggled in High Class-A ball last year with a 5.26 ERA in 20 starts and 102 2/3 innings pitched. Mickolio had a 3.75 ERA in Triple-A Tacoma last season, and scouts say the 6-foot-9, 260-pound reliever has a fastball which touches the mid-90s with a serviceable slider. Butler tossed a 4.75 ERA for Single-A Wisconsin last season.
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