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Leaving the nest?

Mariners, Orioles still discussing Bedard blockbuster

Posted: Sunday January 27, 2008 9:48PM; Updated: Monday January 28, 2008 2:07AM
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Erik Bedard went 13-6 with a 3.16 ERA and 221 strikeouts for the Orioles last season.
Erik Bedard went 13-6 with a 3.16 ERA and 221 strikeouts for the Orioles last season.
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The Mariners and Orioles are in serious discussions on a blockbuster deal that would send left-hander Erik Bedard to Seattle for a package of young players, including top outfield prospect Adam Jones.

There are signs the deal is getting closer -- such as Jones telling reporters that he's headed to Baltimore for a physical -- but late word Sunday night is there's still some internal debate in Baltimore over the deal. Club owner Peter Angelos is famous for nixing deals involving his best players.

Mariners GM Bill Bavasi said by phone Sunday night that it was not a done deal. "We're not there yet,'' Bavasi said. "I can't tell you anything.''

Meanwhile, Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail echoed that sentiment to the Baltimore Sun. "We do not have an agreement with the Mariners," MacPhail said.

Sources told SI.com that Jones (.314 with 25 homers at Triple-A Tacoma), reliever George Sherrill (2-0, 2.36 with Seattle), a strikeout artist who could bolster Baltimore's injury-ravaged bullpen, and minor-league pitcher Chris Tillman (6-7, 5.26 at Class-A High Desert), are among players who have been prominently mentioned in trade talks. Catcher Jeff Clement (.275 with 20 homers also at Tacoma) was discussed at one point, but it's believed the Mariners will hold onto him.

If the Orioles do complete the Bedard trade, word is they would likely then send All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts (.290, 12 HR, 57 RBIs, 50 SBs) to the Chicago Cubs for prospects, possibly outfielder Felix Pie and pitcher Sean Gallagher (3-1, 2.66 at Triple-A Iowa). Pie batted .362 with nine home runs and 43 RBIs at Triple-A Iowa but hit just .215 in 177 at-bats with the Cubs in 2007.

However, the Roberts deal appears to be waiting on completion of the Bedard deal.

Jones told reporters in Venezuela, where he has been playing winter ball, that he was pulled out of the league and was on his way to Baltimore for a physical, the Seattle Times reported Sunday night on its Web site. Mariners public relations director Tim Hevly confirmed to the Times that Jones was out of winter ball but declined to comment further.

The final hurdle to any trade involving the Orioles could well involve Angelos. Any major trade involving the Orioles has to meet the expectation of Angelos, and two baseball executives said this week they believed his approval remained a potential impediment to any Bedard deal.

Bedard told The Baltimore Sun on Saturday that he is resigned to being traded somewhere based on a lack of contractual negotiations with the Orioles.

Such a prospect-heavy deal would make perfect sense for the Orioles, and MacPhail, who wisely unloaded Miguel Tejada to the Astros for five young players. McPhail apparently sees that a serious rebuilding job is needed in Baltimore.

While Angelos is notorious for rejecting trade proposals involving any Orioles' name player, and he's previously rejected trades involving Roberts, people close to the situation would be surprised if Angelos stopped a reasonable trade involving Roberts now. Roberts' named has been bandied about in trade talks --well before his name was mentioned in the Mitchell Report. (Unlike Tejada, who's maintaining he never used steroids, Roberts admitted the report's findings were accurate.)

There has been a sense the trade proposals would reach Angelos's desk this week, and the key one involves Bedard, a rising star who was on his way to leading the American League in strikeouts before a strained oblique muscle ended his season with five weeks to go (he still finished third with 222 and was first with 10.93 strikeouts per nine inning). He'll likely will be the tougher one for Angelos to let go.

However, MacPhail may have more latitude than any Orioles baseball person since former GM Pat Gillick, and Bedard, who can become a free agent after the 2009 season, has shown no inclination to date to consider a long-term arrangement with the perennially losing Orioles. Bedard requested $8 million in arbitration after going 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA, $2 million above the Orioles' submitted salary.

The Mariners who have strengthened their rotation by signing Carlos Silva to a four-year, $48 million deal, never saw Johan Santana as a reasonable alternative for them, either because of his price tag -- which could approach $25 million annually -- or because they were uncertain whether Santana, who's building a home in Fort Myers, Fla., would approve any trade to the Northwest.

The Reds, who have sought a top left-hander to go with right-handers Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo, also showed considerable interest in Bedard. However, their reluctance to surrender top outfield prospect Jay Bruce (who hit 26 total home runs and batted at least .300 at all three minor-league levels at age 20 in 2007) appears to have seriously diminished their chances to land Bedard, or even doomed them.

The Dodgers and Mets also talked to the Orioles about Bedard, but it appears the Mariners are the favorite now. The Orioles showed no interest in trading Bedard within their division, which ostensibly eliminated the Yankees and Red Sox as potential suitors.

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