The Bedard/Washburn Myth
Whenever the discussion of what the M’s should do in terms of trading this summer comes up, inevitably, someone will make the point that this team can’t trade away Erik Bedard or Jarrod Washburn and hope to keep contending because “those guys are the reason the team is where they are”. The belief is that the team can’t trade either of their left-handed free agents to be without sinking the 2009 season, because those two are pitching so well that the team would experience a sudden collapse if either of them left.
The problem, however, is that the facts don’t support that belief.
Mariners record when Bedard or Washburn start: 12-13, .480 winning percentage
Mariners record when anyone else starts: 27-23, .540 winning percentage
67% of the Mariner games this season have been started by pitchers other than Bedard and Washburn. We’re supposed to believe that the M’s aren’t contenders without either of those two, yet the team has done just fine with those guys acting as spectators. Why? Because the reasons this team is winning go far beyond an old cliche that overvalues veteran starting pitching.
This team is winning because of Felix Hernandez, Ichiro, Russell Branyan, Franklin Gutierrez, David Aardsma, and Sean White, among others. They’re getting ridiculously good performances from that group, all of whom are producing all-star caliber results.
This isn’t to disparage Bedard or Washburn. Both guys have pitched well this season, and both are valuable members of the club. The team is better with them than without them, certainly. However, the reality of baseball is that starting pitching isn’t as important as most people think. Bedard and Washburn are not critical pieces that this team can’t live without. Felix, Ichiro, Branyan, Gutierrez, this version of Aardsma… those are guys the M’s can’t replace. Washburn and Bedard can be replaced.
If Bedard is healthy enough to rejoin the team before the all-star break, the M’s will have seven candidates for their starting rotation – Felix, Bedard, Washburn, Morrow, Vargas, Olson, and Rowland-Smith. Even though RR-S and Olson aren’t that good as starters and profile better out of the bullpen, that’s still a surplus. For a team with some gaping holes on the position player side of things, running a surplus of pitching when other major league teams are dying to trade for a starting pitcher isn’t a very good idea.
Even if you think the M’s should be going for it this year, you should still support the idea that the M’s should look to trade Bedard or Washburn in an effort to upgrade other parts of the club. The dropoff from either of those guys to Garrett Olson is smaller than the difference between Chris Woodward and a major league infielder. Or Yuniesky Betancourt and a big league shortstop.
Position players matter more than pitchers. It’s a sellers market for pitchers, and the M’s have starting pitchers to trade, while they have position players they need to buy. When people start busting out the old cliches about not messing with the rotation because “that’s why they’re winning”, don’t listen to them. The Mariners have options open to upgrading the team by trading Bedard or Washburn. They can deal one of the two and still get better this year.