Good News on Bedard – To Tender Or Not
The M’s announced that the surgery on Erik Bedard’s shoulder today was more minor than expected, with his labrum being essentially structurally sound. They removed the cyst, and he’ll be rehabbing for the next 6 months or so. He might be pitching on a major league mound in 7 to 9 months, depending on how rehab goes.
This makes the decision on whether to tender him an arbitration offer this winter more complex. Due to CBA rules, the absolute minimum the M’s could offer is $5.6 million, and even with the injury, it’s likely that he’d file for a raise from his $7 million that he made this year. Since arbitration awards are based on service time more than performance (a mediocre 5th year arb guy will get more than a good 3rd year arb guy), and Bedard can point to some pretty high salaries for comparable talents, we have to assume that his agent would ask for something in the $9 to $11 million range.
Most times, teams settle for something close to the midpoint between the two figures, so we’d estimate Bedard’s expected salary for 2009 to be something like $7 to $8 million for 2009. It could certainly be higher if Bedard’s agent files for a higher number and wins, but that’s less likely than the two trying to find some common ground. But again, he couldn’t possibly make less than $5.6 million, and the M’s probably wouldn’t even risk an offer that low.
So, is it worth $8 million or so to keep Bedard in the organization, pay for his rehab, and hope he returns to contribute in some meaningful way next year? There are a couple ways to look at this.
1. If your goal is to keep him around in order to get him healthy and flip him for prospects at the deadline, then no, it’s not worth it. $8 million will buy you at least 2 or 3 premium international free agents – we’re talking the absolute top tier of teenage talents. Yes, they’re further from the majors and represent more risk, but you’re not going to be able to flip Bedard for a couple of major league ready stars in waiting next summer anyway, no matter how well he pitches. There’s also the draft to consider – the M’s will have a lot of high selections next summer (especially if Ibanez leaves), and there’s always some top tier talents that fall due to their signing demands. If you allocate some of the $8 million (or so) that you’ll owe Bedard to overpaying for a draft pick or two, you’re almost certainly going to get a better prospect than if you hope he gets healthy and you try to deal him at the deadline.
Now, there’s a monkey wrench here – the M’s separate their major league payroll budget from their amateur acquisition budget, so the new GM would have to convince the ownership to transfer the savings on Bedard to another fund. The M’s clearly don’t recognize this kind of thought (thus the whole “saving $10 million by dumping Washburn doesn’t help us” mindset, ignoring the kinds of prospects they could have bought with $10 million) right now, but hopefully a new GM can convince them to change their accounting practices in order to turn the franchise around.
2. However, if you’re keeping Bedard around because you think he can help you win some games next year, it could actually be worth the $8 million investment. Even with a conservative projection of him having a repeat of his 2008 season (so, 80 decent but not amazing innings), Bedard would be worth about 1.5 wins over a replacement level pitcher. A marginal win is going for about $5 million nowadays, so 1.5 wins are worth about $7.5 million on the free market, or almost exactly what we’re projecting he’ll make next year.
If you viewed the M’s as potential contenders, keeping Bedard around for what he could add on the field actually makes some financial sense. If the goal was to add a couple position players, upgrade the defense, and see if you can turn the franchise around quickly, then tendering Bedard a contract would be a worthwhile gamble.
However, if the idea is to try to turn his rehabbed arm into prospects next summer, the team is better off just letting him go and investing the cash elsewhere. The ROI is higher in other places, and right now, the M’s absolutely need to focus on getting as much value for their buck as they can in order to speed up the rebuilding process.