If there had been no COVID-19 and all that it has wrought, I’d be 25 pounds heavier and sitting in a ballroom at the Omni Hotel in Dallas, Texas, surrounded by unhealthy, poorly dressed, middle-aged, mostly white men, staring at Tweetdeck on my laptop and incessantly checking my phone for messages from league sources, team sources, scouts, agents, players and anyone else that might have some insider information on the Mariners’ potential offseason dealings.
Yes, the glamour that is the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings would be in full swing. The offseason spectacle, which started mostly as a job fair for hiring employees and not an extravaganza, was canceled out of obvious concerns for safety and health.
It’s fair to say that if there had been no COVID, “The Hot Stove” would be radiating heat. Instead, the reported financial losses suffered by each team have led to a quiet start to the offseason with just a handful of signings and a few minor trades.
Will it pick up in the coming days?
Well, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto didn’t make a trade or signing on the night before Thanksgiving, so he’s due for some action. Perhaps he might sign a reliever this week. There has been an increase in activity in the last 48 hours.
But until some of the top players like J.T. Realmuto and Trevor Bauer sign or Francisco Lindor is traded, the process could incremental. That means lots of speculative tweets and rumors.
As always, these are real questions submitted by the good folks known as my Twitter followers.
It’s good to hear from Mr. Jeter. It wasn’t that long ago when I first met Chris and his buddy, Dimitri Perera, at the 2009 MLB Winter Meetings at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. OK, that was a long time ago. It was my first winter meetings and Chris and Dimitri, UW students at the time, were hitting up the job fairs, looking for employment/internships. That was roughly 5 1/2 months after general manager Bill Bavasi, who made the regrettable 2008 trade for lefty Erik Bedard that sent Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Chris Tillman, Tony Butler and Kam Mickolio to the Orioles, was fired midway through his fifth season with the Mariners.
Bedard, who is probably living his preferred quiet life in the woods of Canada, became a recent topic as a cautionary tale when it was reported the Rays were shopping Blake Snell and the Mariners would have to give up one of their prized outfield prospects — Jarred Kelenic or Julio Rodriguez — to acquire him.
With the help of Fangraphs, Baseball Reference and a few other sites, we can make a comparison. I decided to use Bedard’s stats leading up to the now infamous trade, which offer a surprisingly similar sample size to Snell’s time with the Rays.
Bedard made his MLB debut in April 2002 at 23 with two brief relief appearances and was optioned back to Class AA Bowie. He looked dominant in his first 13 appearances with the BaySox, posting a 1.97 ERA. But Bedard felt discomfort in his elbow during a start on June 26 and was put on the injured list. After failed rehab attempts, he eventually underwent Tommy John surgery on Sept. 10. He missed all of the 2003 season.
Because it was just two relief appearances in 2002, I decided to use his post-surgery numbers.
So from 2004 to 2007 – a span of four seasons – Bedard made 111 starts and one relief appearance for Baltimore, pitching 657 1/3 innings. He posted a 40-34 record with a 3.82 ERA and a 3.82 Fielder Independent Pitching (FIP). During that span, he struck out 22.7% of the batters he faced and walked 9% while amassing a 15.4 Wins Above Replacement per Fangraphs WAR equation.
Over that span, he averaged 28 starts and 164 innings per season with 160 strikeouts and 64 walks.
Snell made his MLB debut on April 24, 2016, also at age 23 and became a full-time member of the rotation by late June. While his sample size goes over four normal season, you also have to factor in this pandemic-shortened season of 60 games. Snell has made 108 regular season starts and pitched 556 innings in his MLB career. He’s posted a 42-30 record with a 3.24 ERA and 3.50 FIP over that period, striking out 28.3% of the batters he’s faced while walking 9.1%. That production was worth 11.6 WAR.
If you were to average out Snell’s totals over four seasons instead of five, you’d get 27 starts and 139 innings pitched with 162 strikeouts and 58 walks.
Let’s get into the lengths of starts since Bedard got the reputation of being a five-and-dive starter, who couldn’t or wouldn’t pitch past the fifth inning.
Due to some injury concerns and the Rays’ organizational philosophy, Snell doesn’t often get pushed into facing hitters a third time in a game, which limits his outings.
So what do the numbers say?
In 110 starts with the Orioles, Bedard had 35 starts of five innings or less with 69 starts of six innings or more and 38 starts of seven-plus innings.
In 108 starts with the Rays, Snell has 50 starts of five innings or less with 44 starts of six complete innings or more and 13 starts of seven-plus innings. Snell didn’t pitch seven complete innings in 2020 and did so only once in 2019.
How about injuries?
Bedard missed time with three significant injuries during his time in Baltimore – elbow issues and Tommy John surgery in 2002-03, a strained medial collateral ligament in his knee in May-June of 2005 when he missed about five weeks and a strained oblique in his 28th start of 2007 that basically ended his season three weeks early.
Snell missed three weeks in 2018 – the season he won the American League Cy Young Award – with shoulder fatigue. He went on the injured list on April 16, 2019 after fracturing his big toe in a fluke furniture-moving accident. There was a second trip to the IL on July 25, 2019 due to loose bodies in his elbow that were surgically removed. He returned in September to make three shortened starts.
So much of what we remember about Bedard was his failure in Seattle, the apparent disinterest that he seemed to have toward the game, the petulance he displayed to so many people, the myriad of injuries and games missed, and his inability to live up to lofty expectations. And with a blossoming Felix Hernandez in the rotation, the juxtaposition between the two pitchers’ approaches to the game was appreciable to even the casual fan.
So of much of what we think about Snell is his dominant Cy Young season in 2018 when he posted a 21-5 record in 31 starts with a 1.89 ERA and 221 strikeouts in 180 2/3 innings, his recent dominance in the 2020 postseason, specifically Game 6 of the World Series and his anger about being removed from it. Would his numbers be different or better with a different team? It’s possible. He certainly has the talent to be a No. 1 starter for 27 of the 30 teams in MLB. But he’s as much potential as production.
Bedard was a really good pitcher that many teams besides the Mariners coveted in that 2007 offseason, including the Dodgers, Yankees, Reds and Cubs. But Bavasi was desperate to not only build off a winning record in 2007, but also maintain employment. He overpaid for Bedard and the Mariners paid for that decision for years.
I didn’t think the Bedard trade was a good move at the time. And I certainly don’t think any trade for Snell that would include Jarred Kelenic or Julio Rodriguez or Kyle Lewis would be a smart move. Admittedly, I was a little biased in favor of Jones, who I covered quite a bit when he was at Class AAA Tacoma.
Jones was ranked No. 28 by Baseball America going into the 2007 season. But in his second straight season at Tacoma, he put up monster numbers, posting a .314/.382/.586 slash line with 27 doubles, six triples, 25 homers and 84 RBI in 101 games.
I didn’t know if he was going to be an All-Star, but I thought he was going to be a solid everyday center fielder who was a better all-round hitter than Mike Cameron, but not as good defensively.
Lewis is the reigning American League rookie of the year and showing just as much potential, if not more, than Jones. Both Rodriguez and Kelenic are top-10 prospects in all of baseball with the potential to be All-Stars.
The reason the Rays can ask high for Snell is that they don’t feel the need to trade him since his contract is club-friendly and they are trying to take advantage of a perceived peak in value. Always ask for more than expected in case someone is dumb enough to say yes.
With Charlie Morton signing with the Braves, Tampa’s interest in trading Snell has decreased. Snell would bolster Seattle’s rotation, but any trade featuring one of three foundation-level pieces should be dismissed.
If there is a package centered around Taylor Trammell or Cal Raleigh to get Snell, they should go for it. I don’t think the circumstances surrounding this rebuild and his job status have turned Dipoto desperate or reactionary to do something illogical. Blake Snell will still be available at midseason and in the offseason, and the price will likely go down with time.
Well, I was supposed to see Tyler Childers and Sturgill Simpson at the Adams Center at University of Montana in April, but COVID canceled that mega-show. If you haven’t listened to Sturgill’s “Cuttin’ Grass” album, you need to change that.
In honor of the Tractor Tavern, perhaps my favorite establishment in all of Seattle, I will stick with bands that I’ve actually seen there and are still playing together, which unfortunately rules out the Turnpike Troubadours … for now.
Randy Rogers Band – My favorite streamed artist per Spotify and its not even close. Sad country songs are the best and they’ve got plenty of them. Give me an ice cold bottle of Shiner and I’m in heaven.
Whiskey Myers – When they last played the Tractor, it was so packed and sweltering hot. A fight broke out in front of during “Lonely East Texas Nights” and it was still so much damn fun.
Hayes Carll with Band of Heathens – Saw these two play together at the Tractor in what was one of my favorite shows I’ve ever went to in my life. Hayes’ lyrics are poetry. You need to see Band of Heathens sing “Hurricane” live … it’s so mesmerizing.
Reckless Kelly and Micky & the Motorcars – a collection of the Braun Brothers bands playing together. Nothing like a little bit of Stanley, Idaho, in Ballard.
Cody Canada and The Departed – One of the first shows I went to at the Tractor at the urging of my buddy Bryan. First of what was probably 60 shows and counting.
Damn, I miss live music.
I sure hope we can soon say … “that’s what’s next.”